My name is Ralia. I am ten years old. I have lived with my grandmother for sometime now. As far as I can remember, my mother has been ill. She looks so frail and way older than her age. My sister, Asmau and I are being raised by my grandmother. Last year, I was taken out of school and made to hawk because my father had run away and no one knew his whereabouts, my destitute grandmother on the other hand only sells masa to make ends meet. We barely had three meals a day.
The other evening my head mistress called my grandmother asking her to come with me to my former school. My heart skipped a bit, “do we still owe them fees despite my withdrawal?” I thought in dismay. The concern on my grandmother’s face did not make me feel any better. The next morning we went to the school. “Stop sulking now you two” the headmistress said to my grandmother reassuringly “I’ve got some good news”. For the first time in days, my grandmother’s face lit up. “There’s an NGO called FlexiSAF Foundation that supports out of school children to go back to school” she said gayly “Ralia has got a slot with them.”
“Allahu Akbar” my grandmother exclaimed. And so my journey back to school started. I felt so privileged to have such an opportunity and everyday I was thankful for it. I would notice my friends’ envious looks as I strode to school in my new school uniform. Yesterday I and the other beneficiaries of FlexiSAF foundation were summoned. “Your sponsors are coming to pay a visit tomorrow” said the headteacher. “Therefore you should come to school on time and bring all your books” she looked at me “Also, make sure you look neat and tidy” she added.
I could not contain my excitement. The next morning we were called to the board room to meet our sponsors. They were three, two gentlemen and a lady. I felt so shy and tensed I almost shook, the lady hugged me warmly, seemingly noticing my dilemma. “Feel free Ralia” she said. I relaxed a bit. Our sponsors were very nice people, they encouraged us to keep doing well and reassured us of their support. And so it went, until I was done with primary school. I was the best graduating student that year.
A few weeks ago, my grandmother told me that the headteacher had called, asking after me. Since the pandemic and school closures, I hadn’t gone back to school. I would get up early and go to the motor park to sell food with my sister. We were summoned to my former school with my grandmother, I went there looking all haggard. The headteacher was not looking friendly this time. “Why is Ralia hawking and not in school?” she said to my grandmother. “Well she didn’t get any admission into secondary school” my grandmother responded. “How do you know?” Said the headteacher tenaciously, “Did you go there to find out?” Grandma shook her head, red with embarrassment. Your sponsors are coming to visit on Thursday, meet me at the secondary school. True enough, the lady from the sponsors’ team came to visit on Thursday. She was as warm as ever.
“You’re very brilliant Ralia, please don’t destroy your future by choosing to hawk over going to school.” She quipped. “If you get a good education, you’d get a good job or business, and then you’d be able to afford anything. It’s just a matter of a few years”. She continued “Don’t you want to look after your grandmother?” I nodded, sobbing.
Since that day I had a new found motivation to study even harder, each tired look on my grandmother’s face made me even more determined. Now, I look forward to my future, I am excited about all the opportunities out there for me once I complete my studies. I cannot express my gratitude to FlexiSAF Foundation enough. They’ve literally changed my life” – Ralia Usman.
There are several reasons why we do the kind of work we do. When you work in the development space, you’d realise that many people just need a slight push to achieve great things. They often just need someone to believe in them. Read below the story of Ralia.
We meet several girls like Ralia everyday, those who want to attend school but can’t afford it because they have to make a living to help their families. To address this, FlexiSAF Foundation came up with an accelerated learning program (AccLearn) which is flexible and community based. This enables the children to lead their normal lives and learn at their own pace.
Stay tuned to this editorial! We’d be sharing more information about AccLearn soon!