I am Fatima Suleiman; I was born and brought up in the northern part of Nigeria, Katsina state to be precise. I am a 22year old girl who grew up in a polygamous Hausa-Fulani home with three wives and 11 children; my mum being the second wife and the mother of five. Out of these eleven children, three of us are girls and I happened to be the last.
Katsina, being another northern state also has a very low count of females in school. As it is, very few people (girls especially) go to school and most are from the few citizens who are financially capable or those that are exposed.
Our family on the other hand, surviving averagely (for the most part because of our large number and financial status), was not one of those to encourage the girl child education. I have two sisters, one not in school at all and the other is a secondary school dropout which makes me the only graduate to be in the family. Growing up was fun, considering I had many siblings, a lot of family members and friends around.
That fun was however short lived as I lost my mother at a tender age of 3. The day she died marked the beginning of my tragedy, I was so heartbroken that I believed that was the end for me. Everything that used to be fun became unbearable as I could only think of her in whatever I was doing. Thereon, I started facing the challenges of life and reality hit me so fast and early. Staying in the same surrounding was making life uneasy for me because of the love and closure that existed between us. In 1995 my mother’s sister took me in to stay with her in Kaduna. She enrolled me into Jamil nursery and primary school unguwan kanawa Kaduna for my primary school education. She was so kind and the only mother I knew, in her little ways she tried to make me feel loved and comfortable. Living with her was full of love and experiences, she is so compassionate and I learned numerous things from her. She also took full responsibility of me. By 2004 I was already 15, it still touches my heart to remember this age and year because a lot happened to me, including getting used to the teenage life, increase in responsibilities at home (chores) puberty and so on. Also this was the year that my aunt who was the dearly beloved mother I grew up to know passed away. Another tear jerking moment, life became wretched again for me, no one to shoulder my burden, I became bothered and stranded. Now at this point, I lost hope, feeling like I no longer have a purpose in life and school I just never thought of again.
God so kind, my elder sister who has been married for a while suggested that I moved with her in her husband’s house also here in Kaduna. Her husband was so kind to send me back to school and sponsor me until he made sure I successfully completed my primary education at command primary school in Kawo, Kaduna. It was the best he could do for me as an average family man and I remain thankful for his support.
Towards the ending of 2004, he learnt about an organization, GIRL CHILD CONCERNS (GCC) who had interests in issues relating to mine, they care for the girl child and her continued education, he also learnt that they had an ongoing scholarship scheme for the less privileged Girls.
Through him I was awarded with a scholarship and secured admission into capital secondary school Kaduna, I was there from JSS1- SS3 under the GCC scholarship scheme. Occasionally, they would visit I and the other beneficiaries in school, we had retreats annually on life skill development issues. GCC made sure we felt loved and cared for- these people became my family
In early 2010, we were taken to Lagos by GCC for a video training programme and earned a certificate from communication for change’/NIKE. That was my first visit to another part of the country and also my first time in an airplane. After graduating from secondary school same year in mid 2010, still under GCC, we were again selected for a 3 months intensive training with new age network on script writing, programming, editing and production.
In September 2010, I got an admission into Umaru Musa Yar’adua University (UMYU) to study Education Hausa. My sister’s husband pledged to sponsor me because GCC scholarship stops at secondary school.
Unfortunately for me, another tragedy happened in 2012 during my second year in school; I lost my sister’s husband who was sponsoring my university education. After his death, things became more difficult and different as there was no one to pay my fees, give me pocket money or cater for my little needs generally.
I went back to GCC and narrated all my tribulations to them, God so kind they promised to continue paying my tuition fees like before. They have been there for me all through my trauma as a back bone. I have always wondered where I would be and what my life would look like if there was no GCC, I would probably still be in Kastina state, married with kids, and an a life experience nothing compared to what I have now.
But With the complete help of GCC today I have a different story to tell. Apart from formal education, I am now able to handle a camera professionally. They have invested in me a great sense of social responsibility. Every time when we were on holidays in secondary school, I would mentor my younger ones and some of their friends. I did not want to forget what I had learnt and also I wanted to improve myself. I really enjoyed doing this linking it to the fact that my ambition is to be a teacher. I wish to have the privilege to impact knowledge on others at the same time giving back to the community.
One day I would love to see a Nigeria where all boys and girls especially go to school. Because I believe that by educating a girl child like GCC has done for me, it will be easier to eliminate poverty and other harmful practices we are struggling with in Nigeria.
The main challenge in Kastina where I come from and other northern states is poverty. Although education is free, parents have to pay for other charges which they can hardly afford. This is the reason why I intend to open an Organization like GCC as my Goal is to see Nigeria as a country where every child goes to school and actually benefits enormously.
Today I am about to finish my 3rd year, with just a year left to graduate from the university and become the first graduate in my family. At the same time I am equally preparing for my marriage ceremony which is coming up last week of September 2013. My husband to be who is a military man has promised to allow me continue with my education after the marriage. He is someone who understands my goal, life story and ambition to teach which he fully supports.