Despite Challenges, Seven-Year-Old Nigerian Girl Starts Primary School

Despite Challenges, Seven-Year-Old Nigerian Girl Starts Primary School

Seven-year-old Ladi Muhammed. Nigeria. {Photo credit: S. J. Garlora / MSH.}Photo credit: S. J. Garlora / MSH.

Seven-year-old Ladi Muhammed wants to become a teacher. The third of five children ranging 3 to 20 years old, Ladi and her family live in a poor Nigerian village.

The likelihood of Ladi attending primary school is low.

Public primary education is free in Nigeria, but Ladi’s parents can barely afford to feed their children. The children supplement their parents’ income with menial jobs, such as street trading, which leaves little time or energy for schooling.

Her father, Ahmadu Mohammed, wants to send all of his children to school, but does not have the financial means to do so. “It is my heartfelt desire to send my children to school, but I can’t support them due to the meager salary I earn from my work as a gateman. Our situation is tough; we can barely feed ourselves,” says Mohammed.

Without an education, Ladi’s desire to one day become a teacher appeared a distant dream.

Then, in March 2012, the Doma Education Development Foundation (DEDF) visited Arawa village, and met Mohammed's family. DEDF staff members enrolled Ladi and her siblings in the PEPFAR-funded USAID project, Community Based Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Nigeria (CUBS), led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH). DEDF provided guidance and counseling services to the five children and also helped Ladi to register in primary school.

Once enrolled in school, CUBS provided Ladi with a school uniform, bag, writing materials, and a basic care kit which includes a mosquito net, bucket, spigot, and Water Guard.

Ladi is adapting to school life quickly and has shown several signs of brilliance, according to her teacher, Aishatu Haruna. “Despite Ladi’s late enrollment, she is coping very well and learning fast. She is always punctual and likes to sit in the front row,” says Haruna.

Ladi’s mother is grateful to DEDF and CUBS for the emotional and educational support they have provided to her children. “I lack words to express my gratitude for this noble gesture of support for my children," she says. "I pray daily for the growth and development of MSH and DEDF."

Lovely Joel-Maksha, an intern doing his National Youth Service with the CUBS project in Gombe state, Nigeria, contributed to this post.

Raphael Dare Ariyo is a communications expert and trained journalist.