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The little Amazon

Saratu with her bike
© UNICEF Nigeria/2007/Nwosu
Saratu with her new mountain bike.

When we first met Saratu, our vehicle was turning the lonely road into Wurmawa community in Danmusa LGA of Katsina State; we sighted her at the junction. She was in a white and green gown wearing a head scarf, dragging her bicycle. She had just closed from school in Danmusa town and would have to drag her little bicycle six kilometres to her village, Wurmawa. She had a flat tyre.

Ten year old Saratu Bello is one of the two girls from Wurmawa who attends the Danmusa Pilot Primary School. A primary four pupil, Saratu and her class mate, Aisha were selected and transferred from the village school to the Pilot school on merit. Pilot schools normally admit brilliant and promising pupils from primary four and groom them for three years to gain admission into secondary schools.

Many girls forfeit their admission into such pilot schools due to the long distances they have to cover just to get there. Among those children out of school who live in rural areas, girls are often the most deprived. A considerable number of all out-of-school girls in Nigeria do not attend school because the schools that they have access to are just too far away from their homes.

Not many parents would allow their daughters cover 12 kilometres daily, Monday to Friday, to access school, and on foot!

Saratu, however, is a lucky girl. Her parents not only allow her to do so, they encouraged her by providing her with a rusty old second-hand bicycle, which she rides to school. When it breaks down she just pulls it along. Within her frailty lies the strong-will of an Amazon, a will to conquer ignorance and acquire education.

We took her and the bicycle in our vehicle and proceeded to Wurmawa community where a meeting of the School Based Management Committee was to hold. As we entered the village other children noticed her and chanted “GA Sare, Ga Sare” to welcome her (meaning ‘here is Saratu, here is Saratu’). On alighting from the vehicle, a little boy offered to take the bicycle home for her. It seems that Saratu and her bicycle have become quite popular in the town where she lives.

Saratu’s mother, Madam Amina, said their support for Saratu’s education was inspired by the Girls’ Education Project. She and her husband now appreciate the value of girls’ education and even though they are a poor family, they want to see Saratu through school.
To access school, Saratu, the little Amazon has to navigate a lonely winding road with a big river in between. These are incredible hurdles to cross in order to access education but Saratu is among the increasing number of girls in Northern Nigeria that are being encouraged and assisted to overcome just such hurdles in order to have the opportunity to be able to attend and remain in school.

...That was a year ago

Now Saratu and her friend Aisha both own brand new mountain bikes. The girls received the bicycles from a kind benefactor moved by their story and the strong will and determination displayed by these girls in the lengths they go to just to be able to attend school.

We go to visit Saratu at home. The compound speaks volumes of the family’s level of poverty and their vulnerability to some of life’s harsher strokes. Yet in the midst of this, Saratu is not deterred. “I hope to become a teacher one day”, she tells us.

Saratu still has to cover a distance of 6 kilometres every day just to get to school – and another 6 kilometres to get back home. This is no easy feat, especially on the desert sands of the arid community in which she lives. But at least, with her new bike, she now has one less thing to worry about.

Saratu remains just as determined to finish her education. There can be no doubt about it; she is still the strong little girl, the little Amazon, we met a year ago.

Saratu and Aisha ride to school
© UNICEF Nigeria/2007/Nwosu
Aisha and Saratu going to school on their new bikes.



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