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Finding Claire 6
Finding Claire 6

Finding Claire Ep.5 – Back To The Future

“Sannu”

Claire curtsied at the entrance to the Principal’s office. Alhaja Aliyu looked up from the newspaper she had been reading and her face swelled in a smile, like puff puff batter meeting hot oil.

“Koppa Klaire!”

Her teeth flashed, and so too did dimples that holed both her cheeks. Right hand beckoning, Alhaja Aliyu closed the newspaper and studied the young lady in approach. She had grown fond of her in the past three months, and appreciative of her initiatives to better Duma Comprehensive.

“Yaya de?”

“Koppaaa! You see! Small small, ne?”

Claire had bemoaned a communication handicap at their first meeting. Due to paucity of teaching resources, the students barely understood English. Alhaja Aliyu had been certain she would pick up Hausa with ease, and requested particular attention for JS3 and SS3 students. They were soon to write West African exams, despite lagging behind in their curricula.

Claire smiled. She was proud of her progress. There was also much yet to be done; like the conversation of the day.

“Last week, 3 of my SS3 students got married. They have all asked me how to avoid having babies until they finish WAEC.”

Alhaja Aliyu was immediately uncomfortable. She shifted from one bum to the other in her chair. Crossed her legs. Drove her glasses closer to her eyes.

“Koppa…”

“I know our cultures are different and I’m not asking to stop child marriage; even though you and I know that’s the right thing. We owe our students a duty to prepare them for adulthood. That’s what education should be; isn’t it, Ma?”

The older woman nodded and Claire continued.

“Let us initiate an extracurricular partnership with NGOs. We’ll call it Family Life. We’ll teach boys and girls about their bodies, how to avoid sex before marriage, and plan for the families they hope to have. We would also link them to Whispa.”

“We would link them to talking quietly?” 

Alhaja Aliyu’s brow furrowed and Claire giggled.

“Whispa is spelled W. H. I. S. P. A, Ma. It is an internet-based platform that provides affordable, discreet, and confidential reproductive health services, including counselling and hospital referrals. It is virtual, doesn’t demand sign-up, or require provision of personal details. This makes it helpful for young people who would otherwise be scared, ashamed, or unable to divulge the truth about their situations and what they need.”

Alhaja Aliyu was excited.

“This is possible?! But, Koppa, are you saying we would support child marriage?”

“Never that, Ma. We are giving our students knowledge and tools to make informed choices. Girls should know the onset of their period doesn’t mean marriage. Boys should know that a family is responsibility, not just sex or the next thing. Both sexes should know that children are not inevitable. They can and should be planned to suit a couple’s reality. Marriage need not be the dreamkiller children are deceived or forced into.”

Claire paused.

“Relating with fellow Hausa and Nupe NGO workers will inspire our students to not limit their life choices. It will show them the practicality of not repeating cycles of poverty that birthed them. I believe none of this contradicts the values of your people, Ma.”

Alhaja Aliyu smiled inside.

Koppa Claire had found the words she never could. This had been her secret thorn: watching teenagers plucked from school struggle to grasp their reality and the demands of starting families. Some had been lost to drug abuse and pregnancies, among other experiences children should be sheltered from.

“Now that you put it like this, we can tell the village Chief. But, Koppa Klaire, which NGO would we partner with?”

Claire’s jaw fell. She had been prepared for more resistance. 

Quickly gathering herself, she powered on her laptop. Walked over to Alhaja Aliyu’s side of the table. She had already reached out to some NGOs. Four had signalled interest and provided a shopping list of logistics, with which she had drawn a budget. Her father had promised funding for the first 6 months. She would request continued support based on the first quarter’s report. Before her service year was over, also, she would facilitate a plan to sustain the program for the next year. 

Alhaja Aliyu scanned the detailed document. She was laughing so hard that her stomach jiggled before she was done.

“You were never going to take no, were you; Koppa Claire?”

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