She managed to find herself in Cameroon, trekking long distances with other fleeing counterparts. She was lucky to find her family in Timangolo Refugee site, thanks to UNHCR’s records. Her family had lost everything even the hope of educating their children. “When the war started, I knew that was all about my education” Balkissou declares. Little did she know that her father had other plans for her.
Despite the migration, Balkissou’s father, stood firm on his position to send his children to school. “My father sent me to school” he says. “And there is no reason for me not to send my own children to school,” he continues. I know the value of education and I want my children to be educated” he concludes.
Partnership to improve children’s lives
Thanks to a partnership between Unicef and Plan International, Balkissou and thousands of other children were offered the opportunity to go back to school. Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS) were constructed in Timangolo site, teachers were recruited and trained, parenting sessions on the importance of formal education for children and girls were held, and several other mechanisms put in place to ensure children go to school.
Based on the assessments done to classify children per learning level, Balkissou was registered into a special school programme enabling her to prepare to take secondary school entrance end of year examinations. At the end of this program, 12 children, 3 girls, 9 boys aged 10 to 16, were transferred from the TLS to a government primary public school.
These children, amongst which Balkissou, rapidly demonstrated the knowledge they acquired from the preparatory programme they passed through thanks to Plan International and Unicef. Balkissou was always among the 3 best students of her class.
At the end of the school year 2015 – 2016, Balkissou and her 11 other mates brilliantly obtained their secondary school entrance and end of primary school certificate.
Early marriage, a nightmare to Balkissou
Balkissou has left the family to join a host family in a neighboring town, at about 40 km away from her parents. She is registered in a secondary school like the 9 boys with whom she succeeded in end of year exams. She continues to be supported by Plan International. “I am very proud of Balkissou,” her head teacher says. “She is amongst my best students. You can hardly guess she is a refugee. She is well integrated in her school milieu and has good relationship with her classmates. My wish is that she is not forced out of school to be sent on early marriage as many refugee parents do” he continues.
Hawa recently clocked 18 and is already married and expecting
Though they also passed their secondary school entrance, Balkissou’s classmates, Hawa 17, and Rakiatou 16, were not lucky to further their studies. “Hawa recently clocked 18 and is already married and expecting” Balkissou says. “Rakiatou will soon be married too”, Balkissou continues. “I don’t want to be like them. I want to continue my education. As I learnt through educative talks organized by Plan International, Education will make me a better wife. Education first” she concludes.