‘We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.’ – Maya Angelou
Walt Disney’s animated stories are always fun to watch. Take the evergreen story of Cinderella for instance. A young lady finds herself at the mercy of her cruel step-mother and step-sisters after her father unexpectedly dies. Despite her circumstances, she refuses to despair. A Fairy God-mother enters the scene where she almost loses hope of attending the ball organised by the Prince and with strokes of magic, Cinderella’s fortune is changed. Double Fast Forward, Cinderella marries the Prince and they live happily ever after. Hurray!
Aminat says she has watched the Cinderella story a couple of times during my conversation with her. ‘It’s just imaginary tales to make people happy and forget their sorrows,’ she says. Smiling, she continues, “Things are totally different in the real world. For example, there is no Fairy God-mother to turn your situation around with her magic… I don’t know how much that glass slipper would be worth though, but I know I would sell it if I have one like that. I’d use the proceeds to pay me and my brother’s school fees.”
Aminat is a 13 year old girl who lives with her Grandma and a younger sibling. Her mum is late and her dad is ‘nowhere to be found’ according to her Grandma. Aminat’s friend, Bolanle, had filled the Disadvantage to Advantage application form on her behalf during my visit to her school in search for intelligent students from less priviledged backgrounds. Undeterred by the emotional trauma or living standards at home, Aminat is not allowing the limitation of her background reduce the height of her potential.
Aminat: It hasn’t been easy at all for me and my brother, but we thank God. At least we have a roof over our head.
Me: How does Grandma manage with rent and food for everybody at home since she doesn’t work?
Aminat: It’s my Aunt that pays the rent and also buys food stuff.
Me: Is your aunty rich?
Aminat: No o, she’s not. She’s a tailor and has five children of her own. It was my mum who used to pay the rent as Grandma was living with us… It’s just my late mum and my aunt that my Grandma gave birth to… I don’t even know how she would continue with us. I wish I had completed my secondary school before that unfortunate accident happened.
Me: What class are you in currently?
Aminat: I’m in SS1
Me: So who paid for your Junior WAEC fees?
Aminat: (Smiles) My school teachers.
Me: Your school teachers?
Aminat: Yes, they all contributed money for me when they heard the news as it was close to the deadline date for payment when my mum died.
Me: How long have you been away from school?
Aminat: It’s been two weeks now. My friend, Bolanle, has been very helpful. I’m always in possession of her textbooks during school hours and my notebooks are also up to date. I feel sad most times knowing my mates are in school. I wish I can go back to school as early as possible.
Me: Have you tried contacting your dad? Does he know your mum is late?
Aminat: I’m still looking for him… I don’t know if he does… We haven’t seen him for years and he hasn’t even called us.
Me: Let’s talk about school a little? So what’s your best subject?
Aminat: (Excited) Actually, I have three. Mathematics, Physics and Biology. I want to be a Medical Doctor in future.
Children like Aminat (name changed), who is currently on our waiting list, inspire us to do what we do. There is a seed of greatness in every child. We are investing in children for a bright tomorrow. Do join us!
Written by Emeke Ndego