Because They Sent Me Back To School.
When I discovered I was pregnant, my world came crashing down. I thought of how my classmates would look at me upon finding out. I thought of how my siblings would feel when they heard the news. And I thought of how my poor parents would react. I was only a high school girl. At a time when my studies should have been my focus, poverty and ignorance played a fast one on me.
Though I had been born and raised in a middle class home, by the time I reached secondary school, my family had plunged into the worst kind of poverty you can imagine. At that time, having enough food in our house was an uphill task. My siblings and I worked on the farm daily to either plant or harvest the crops that both sustained us and helped pay our school fees. On several occasions, we missed school in order to work on the farm. Life was tough, but like they say, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”
I applaud my parents every day because they didn’t give up on our education. When they learned I was pregnant, they were shocked and devastated, but they told me I did the best thing in not aborting the baby. When my son was only six months old, they took him under their care, and even though our community advised them not to, they sent me back to school. The opportunity they gave me to continue my studies I took as a challenge; I concentrated on reaching university and graduated top of my university class.
Now when I walk down into the village I grew up in, I cry every time for the teenagers I find pregnant and married there. And when I visit the village’s lone government secondary school, I lament at the number of teenage pregnancies and girl drop outs registered every year. My heart bleeds and compels me to act. I am determined to change the paradigm. I want a world where girls will go to school and become great leaders.
While Rescue Women Cameroon scholarships help meet the financial need to keep girls in school, we quickly learned that another kind of support is needed to help girls in school excel. It is for this reason that my organization has started creating “Girls Lead Clubs” in the most rural secondary schools in the country. Through the clubs they receive mentoring, sex education, and courses on girls’ rights and leadership.
“Girls Lead Clubs” launched in two schools this September and will launch in three others next month. I am hoping to be in 50 schools by this time next year. We learned from the principal of one of the schools that it has registered ten pregnancies and six crude abortions in a single academic year, though it has less than 65 girls enrolled. This principal appreciates our endeavor to educate and empower girls so that they can complete their education.
When I look back at my education journey, I tell myself that it was worth every struggle. Instead of being one of those girls who dropped out of school, married early, or even died young, I am an educated and empowered woman who is determined to hold the hands of other girls who are at risk.
While the road is dark and bumpy, I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. If I was able to make it this far, the girls I work with will be able to as well. The journey has only begun.
I know that education is key, and I want all girls to get an education. One step at a time, we will get there.