Nene Ibezim, Global Schools Advocate, Nigeria
The Girl Child Education Awareness Campaign was inspired by a conversation I had with the parent of Esther, a girl in my class. Esther had not shown up in school for some days so I went to her home to inquire. I met with Esther's mother and in her words"Esther has moved to Lagos to stay with my sister because my sister need help for her house and I no get money to dey take care of Esther". Now, Esther has an older brother in the same school that continues to remain in school. It became apparent that the societal attitude, belief and lack of value for educating a girl child was the deciding factor that made Esther's mother decide to pull Esther out of school. So, in October 2018, when I told my students about the International Day of the Girl Child they all gave me blank stares. They wondered aloud why we had to celebrate the girl child. Then, I started to explain to them. I knew they finally understood when one of the boys quietly shared "Sometimes, my mummy always ask my younger sister to stay at home to take care of my baby brother and she will tell me to go to school but my sister will be the one to stay at home." Afterwards, we had an awareness campaign in the school.
I designed all the inscriptions on cardboards which we used for the campaign.
Now, fast forward to October 2019, my students showed up at my desk asking how we were going to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. I looked around at their excited faces and I got an idea. I said to them, "Why don't we take it to the community?" They took a minute to process what I said and then they started jumping and clapping in excitement. Next thing I knew, they started listing, "Ms. Nene, we will need cardboards" "Yes, plenty cardboards" "...and markers too" "Miss Nene write everything down so you won't forget" (Of course I became a note taker instantly). "Get different colour of markers o...and gum too...we will use it to put some of the cardboards on the houses". "We also need scissors. Miss Nene can you get more scissors?" The Girl Child Education Awareness Campaign is highly needed especially in low-income communities because millions of girls are out of primary and secondary school in sub-Saharan Africa. Girls are more likely to be excluded from going to school compared to boys. It was amazing watching my students take ownership of the campaign. They designed the advocacy materials. They chose representatives to speak on their behalf in the community and they decided they will show Miss Nene the way. Their very words to me were "don't worry, just follow us". Children can lead and we can follow!