Naja is a fourteen-year-old girl from Durum, a community located in the Bauchi Local Government Area (LGA) of Nigeria. To support her family and save for marriage, she works as a “child hawker”, and sells groundnut and groundnut cake in the community marketplace. This role is extremely dangerous, especially for young girls. Children in this role experience abuse, threats, kidnappings, deaths, or injuries from traffic accidents. Yet, it is common in a community that experiences high poverty rates, economic instability, and gender biases, all of which prevent young girls from going to school.
Despite this challenging economic reality, greater awareness is being generated regarding the negative impacts of child hawking and the benefits of child education and life skills. As a reflection of this change in attitudes, Naja’s parents allowed her to participate in MEDA’s vacation school for three weeks in August 2018. After her experience at this school, Naja says she will take her education more seriously now since it is a springboard to gain more knowledge. “I have noticed that there are so many men treating women cases even in my village and I now want to become a medical doctor to help women in my community who cannot afford proper medical care,” She said.
For Naja’s mother, who works in the groundnut and rice sector, she is optimistic about her daughter being enrolled in the vacation school.“I believed this training is far better than street hawking. Since the holiday started, my daughter only assists me to sell after she has finished the assignments she has from school,” Naja’s mother said.
Two years after the vacation school pilot project in Durum Community, Naja is doing great and taking her education seriously. She fondly remembers the songs that they learned in the vacation school and the lessons she learned about the dangers of early childhood marriage.
“I am just so happy that my parents could enroll me into secondary school. This would not have been possible or seen as necessary if I did not tell my father that I wanted to become a doctor. I still want to become a doctor,” Naja says.