A primary six pupil identified as Basira Umaru has narrated how she was saved from being married out in her early teens with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The 13-year-old from Niger state shared her story in Minna at a two-day consolidation meeting with mentors and pupils from nine UNICEF supported Local Government Areas of Niger.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, the meeting was to discuss the impact and lessons of the UNICEF girl-child enrollment intervention programme, G4G/He4She, and its sustainability using community-based institutions and teams. The programme is being implemented in nine local government areas of the state to address issues of girl-child enrollment and retention.
The teenager explained that she was enrolled in school by her elder sister who was married and lives in Makera. She however said that her parents had attempted to remove her from school and get her married.
“When my parents came, my elder sister brought them to my school to meet our headmistress who doubles as my mentor, after telling my mentor of their intention, my mentor hid me and told them she has not seen me.
“When they eventually left, my mentor called me and told me everything and she said she will keep me under her custody and since then, I have been living with her,”
In addition, the teen said she had never came in contact with the man her parents wanted her to marry, and noted that it was the tradition of their community to get female children married at an early age.
Basira, however, said she was not ready for marriage as her ambition was to become a medical doctor in future.
According to her, she became more aware of the importance of education through the G4G programmes she attended.
Also, Malama Habiba Aliyu, a mentor at Etu Tasha Primary School, Edati, said the programme had made parents and children more aware of the importance of education. She said the enrollment of girls in school had increased in the area and girls were no longer dropping out of school for marriage.
“We had cases where three girls were about to drop out of school to be married off, the case was reported to the principal of the school and the community leader who immediately swung into action to stop that,”
Aliyu said that UNICEF intervention through the G4G/He4She programme had helped reduce cases of early marriages in the area.
Similarly, Solomon Yahaya a pupil in Sa’idu Namaska Primary School, Kontagora, said he had helped a girl who was into hawking to get enrolled in school.
“I was on my way from school when I saw the girl hawking, I stopped and asked her if she wants to go to school and she said yes, I followed her to meet with her parents to speak to them on her behalf.
“Afterward, her parents agreed to allow her to go to school and since then, we have been going to school together,”