‘Girl J’: A Genius Goes From Street to School
One had originally intended to keep this miracle story under the bushel, but then it’s a story that titillates, one that made me cry the first time I heard it. And now, it’s a story depicting the possibilities of life – how diamonds can be found in life’s rubble. Perhaps telling it will inspire someone today.
A month ago, ‘Girl J’ resumed school at Our Lady of Apostle’s Primary School in Yaba, Lagos. We discovered her about a week earlier during our empowerment workshop in #Makoko. About a month to that time, she was living on Lagos’ ferocious streets.
‘Girl J’ 16, ended up on the streets a year after being brought to Lagos. Her elder step-brother, Shagari, brought her from Kogi State with a promise to her indigent parents back at Ugwolawo village, of enrolling her in school in the city. He never did. ‘Girl J’ became a full-time housemaid serving her brother, a construction worker, his wife and their seven children. For a year she washed all their clothes, fetched water and did most of the domestic chores. For her pains, Shagari gave her N10 (less than one cent) for feeding each day. Neighbours noticed her losing weight by the day and asked questions. She opened up. They confronted her heartless brother. That earned her a hard beating and a kick out of the house. And that was the second time. Night and day met her on the aimless streets, at the mercy of the elements. One day, an Alfa (Muslim cleric) discovered her and out of pity, took her to his home. He then reported to a nearby police station. The police zealously arrested her guardian, released him after two days (after ‘bailing’ himself, ofcourse). Guardian’s wife insisted Alfa and wife must also be arrested for ‘hoarding an unknown child’. Police did her bidding and arrested Alfa’s wife! Then Alfa’s wife was bailed.
‘Girl J’, very intelligent and with a photographic memory, recalled a phone number given her a year ago by her cousin Habiba during her (Habiba’s) father’s burial in Idah, their ancestral home town in Kogi. She called out the number to Alfa and he made a phone call. ‘Girl J’ told Habiba her plight and Habiba told her mum then ran to fetch a traumatised ‘Girl J’. That was how she came to stay with Habiba, her three siblings and their widowed mum whose trade oscillates between hawking corn pap (‘ogi’) and frying akara (bean balls) when capital allows, in Makoko, Lagos’ largest slum.
A kind-hearted neighbour and community women leader, Mrs. Adeyemi (aka Iya Lode) brought her to CEE-HOPE’s skills building and mentorship workshop for about 85 girls drawn from Makoko and other impoverished communities late September. And, that was how ‘Girl J’ was discovered and selected as one of the 10 scholarship recipients in Makoko for this school session.
Life. Fate. Possibilities…
‘When my daughter Habiba brought her, she looked so thin that I had to rush her to the hospital, wondering whether she had been raped, thankfully she was okay,’ said her aunt.
‘Girl J’, tall, slim and blessed with a rich ebony complexion is a walking encyclopaedia. She doesn’t need a phone or a notebook to store numbers of her parents, relatives, friends, neighbours etc. She simply compiles them in her brain, and years later, recalls them like a genius. Her educational foundation back in the village was, obviously, typically, shaky and her initial stay in Lagos, sordid, yet her brilliance shines through. It’s been a month now at Our Lady of Apostles and she’s doing pretty well, trying to forget the past, inching towards achieving her dream of becoming a nurse one day, one educational step at a time. Yet, she easily breaks down in torrential tears each time she narrates her past ordeal.
It is our hope the tears will finally dry and she will ultimately achieve her dream and far away from the weird streets. We are also hoping to empower her aunt later this month to continue to sustain her family including ‘Girl J’.
We are happy for her but we are very mad at her brother and soon, very soon, we hope justice will be brought to his door steps. And also the conniving police officers.
And now, we pray; may many other ‘J Girls’ in our society find HELP, HOPE and POSSIBILITIES today!