There are no difficult children but there are really difficult childhoods. What is difficult is to be a child in a world full of tired, always busy, hurried, and impatient people. And this has become almost routine in Nigerien communities in general, and particularly in Ouallam; one of the areas of intervention of World Vision in Niger.
Samtigué is a village located less than 3 km from the urban commune of Ouallam and like everywhere else in Niger the weakness of the basic social sectors is glaring. Unfortunately, this can be seen in the education sector, as the story of Sakina tells us.
Ten-year-old Sakina, has lived in Samtigué since birth. She attends primary school Grade 5 at a nearby school. Despite a physique too frail for her age, Sakina’s strong personality shines through. In the communities where survival is at stake on a day-to-day basis, school is an unattainable luxury for many children.
"Before when I wasn't in school I was just playing and helping my mom with domestic chores. I watched the other children go to school and my heart was bruised that I could not do as they did. I admired these children and dreamed of having the opportunity to go to school as well," says Sakina.
“Then in October 2016, I enrolled myself in school to finally fulfil to my dream of going there. Since then I have been learning new things every day and dream of becoming a teacher in order to share my knowledge with other children in my community,” she continues.
Fate and circumstances tried to thwart her beautiful ambition. Indeed the mirage of the school would prove shocking for the little one.
"I spent my first four years of primary school sitting on the ground. The reason was that our school did not have table benches (desks). However, despite this I still loved going to school”, says Sakina. “It is very unpleasant to always sit on the ground regardless of the weather and weather conditions. Every day I got very dirty, and was often sick. My friends and I weren't comfortable; we couldn't take care of our writings, and our little school materials were always dirty and tattered."
However, it was more than about being dirty and facing discomfort. The children often confronted the dangerous realities of the rural world. Last year they discovered a snake under one of the student’s mats. And scorpions regularly crawl around the classroom, stinging children at any time.
And then there were the challenges to learning.
"Being on the ground, it is very difficult for students to follow the course well and to formulate the letters well in the copying of the course, let alone learn the lessons well", says Mr. Almoustapha Sanda Ousseini, the school’s director.
Through the PAQE-ECW (Education Quality Support Programme - Education Cannot Wait), World Vision provided the school items for the classroom such as bench tables, reading books, teachers' desks, chairs, cabinets, hand-washing devices, boxes of pens and chalk, slate boxes and complete school kits for the 150 students of the school. The school kits included items such as a bag, a slate, pens, pencils, coloured pencils, notebooks, chalk, and an eraser.
"This year, World Vision arrived at our school and since then, a lot has changed. For the first time in my life, I got a school bag with lots of school supplies that I had never had before. In addition, I am sitting on a bench table this year. I was too happy and too proud when I received them. It also motivated me to study and pursue my dream. I am now comfortably seated, less dirty and less sick. I can treat better my writings and my work in class", Sakina exclaims enthusiastically.
It was certainly a breath of fresh air that boosted the motivation of the children and their teachers.
"We thank God! This gift of World Vision is much more than important to us because it has given Sakina and her comrades a smile and hope. You can see that she is finally sitting on a desk, that she is clean, very happy and much focused on her learning. She is actively involved in the course and is comfortable on the table using the manuals we have received”, says the director.
Mr. Almoustapha further explains that the donations have also helped make lessons easier for the teachers. Through the textbooks, everyone can view the illustrations, which helps them understand the lessons more readily. He says that they now see less frustration among the students because they have the supplies they need. Teachers also received support through manuals that helped them plan lessons.
He says, “This donation has allowed us to improve the morale and level of our students. So after the evaluation, we found 28 out of 30 who had the average score.” Before the supplies arrived, only 14 out of 30 achieved that score.
Still, much remains to be done to meet the enormous needs of the school. So far, they have only been able to fully equip Sakina’s classroom with desks, tables, and school supplies. That means other students still continue to learn from the floor and without the essentials for doing their lessons.
Sakina now knows the joy of sitting off the ground for her lessons. She knows what it means to have the necessary materials for her lessons. But she advocates for her classmates: “We still need bench tables for our other comrades who continue to sit on the ground."
For Sakina, the dream of attending school now proves to be even better in a comfortable and fully equipped learning environment. Now, she can more easily pursue her goal of becoming a teacher.