"I did not get the opportunity to go to school and I know I missed a lot. I will not allow such to happen to my children"
A mother figure does not always have to be a mother. Aunts, grandmothers, sisters, cousins - so many people step into mothering roles for the children in their lives, freely giving them love, support and mentorship.
In Ghana, Mariama is raising five children, including her 14-year-old niece Ayisha. As her aunt, Mariama does everything in her power to make sure that Ayisha has the opportunity to go to school and achieve her dreams.
Mariama supports Ayisha’s education goals
Mariama knows the importance of a girl’s education and works hard for her children. Ayisha is the second youngest child in her care, and Marima hopes that Ayisha receives the opportunities that she missed.
“I did not get the opportunity to go to school and I know I missed a lot. I will not allow such to happen to my children,” Mariama told us. “Education is one of the keys to success. I want my girls to become nurses, doctors and engineers in future.”
With school being out, Ayisha spends her days at home helping with housework. When they’re not cooking and cleaning together, Ayisha bonds with her aunt through stories.
“Being at home, my Aunty tells me many different story tales. We read story books together,” Ayisha said. Reading to Mariama helps Ayisha practice her English - which is her favourite school subject.
School closures in Ghana disrupted her learning, and Ayisha worries that she will miss her exams and not graduate. Globally, lockdowns are still creating setbacks for girls’ education, which can come with devastating costs.
Girls in Ghana are leaving school
Because of the pandemic’s effects on family income, many young girls in Mariama and Ayisha’s community have no choice but to do kayaayee, which are small labour jobs in big cities like Accra and Kumasi.
“Some girls' families rely on them to earn money from kayaayee to support the household. They have to drop out of school.” Ayisha said, about some of her peers.
Lockdowns have also increased the prevalence of early pregnancy, trafficking and domestic violence for young girls. Educators in Ayisha’s community are concerned that girls will not return to school once lockdown restrictions ease because of early pregnancy and forced migration.
Mariama works hard to make sure her girls stay in her care and continue their education. Her farm and small goods store have suffered because of the lockdowns, but despite this, she saves all she has for Ayisha’s educational dreams.
“I know my income sources have reduced because of COVID-19 and I may struggle sometimes to provide all that she needs for schooling, but I will never compromise on Ayisha’s education,” Mariama told us with great determination.
GIRLS NEED TO STAY IN SCHOOL, NOW MORE THAN EVER
Mariama is a strong mother figure to her nieces, striving to see their dreams come to fruition. As a proud aunt, Mariama gushes about Ayisha’s sweet, respectful and quiet nature. She hopes Ayisha one day achieves her dream of becoming a nurse or doctor and helping her community, country and beyond with her skills.
Because of the tireless efforts of women like Mariama, girls around the world have the support and love that they need to succeed at school, and in turn, become role models for little girls around them.
Thanks to the generosity of Canadian Feed The Children donors and local partner RAINS, Ayisha and Mariama's community gained a seven classroom school block, which helped to enroll more girls in school throughout the area. Girls are the majority of students now at Ayisha's school. As well, bicycles were provided to girls, like Ayisha, who lived in rural areas so they had the means of attending their classes. Since schools have been out, girls are at greater risk of not returning to the classroom. You can help make sure that girls stay in school and get the education they deserve by supporting women's livelihoods and gender equality initiatives through CFTC-supported programs.