Ten-year old Tchimada Abdoulaye is the only one of her siblings to go to school. Coming from a poor nomadic family, Tchimada is lucky to attend. Her mother has already received marriage offers for her but wants her to finish her studies instead.
“This is now my last year,” Tchimada says, “and I am preparing for the primary school certificate at the end of the year. If I succeed, I want to go on to middle school.”
In Niger, access to school has improved a lot over the past few years. But there is still a significant gap between boys and girls, which is even more visible in rural areas. Many girls end up dropping out before completing their primary cycle, mostly because of the low quality of education, or because schools do not offer a safe and supportive environment for girls.
As a result, only about 62% of girls pass their primary school certificate.
Making schools girl-friendly
Tchimada is still on the right track – mostly because she was lucky enough to be enrolled in a ‘Child-Friendly/Girl-Friendly’ school. Tchimada can take advantage of large classrooms, enough school supplies and books to cover her needs, well-trained teachers, and access to drinking water points.
With teachers and children being educated about children’s and women’s rights, and with separate latrines for boys and girls, the school also offers a safe environment.
Tchimada’s mother, Fatimata, who lives close to the school in a small hut, takes care of six children by herself. She supports her family by selling the wood that she picks up outside the city, and by selling mats. Fatimata works hard to keep Tchimada in school, but she has not always understood the importance of education.
“My older children have not finished school because I did not support them enough. But I will not make the same mistake with Tchimade”, says Fatimata. “I do not want her to do household chores, so she has more time to study. I already received some requests to marry her, but she has to finish her studies first.”
Today, UNICEF and its partners are working hard to make sure the Child-Friendly Schools model becomes more widespread. And with support from the IKEA Foundation’s Soft Toys for Education campaign, Tchimada’s story can become a reality for many more girls in Niger.