Hidel, a 15-year-old girl from Kenya, shares her story on girls education
“This is my education story, my strength.”
In honour of International Day of the Girl, we’re standing in solidarity with girls worldwide. We’re sharing the story of Hidel, a 15-year-old who faced more than any girl should in her life, but did not give up on her education.
Through our wire mesh window I see children running around, playing, laughing. I wonder how it feels to have a normal childhood.
I was born to an affluent Maasai family in Kenya. Even though my parents didn’t understand the importance of education, they allowed me to go to primary school.
I began school in 2006 and it was the best place for me. My father invested heavily in my education and ensured that I was never out of school for whatever reason. Tragedy struck my family when we least expected it. My father — the sole breadwinner of our family — died from skin cancer. Then my mum was so depressed by this loss that she too passed.
“Yes, I will”
Fortunately, my aunt in Nairobi took me in. I did not have the slightest idea what life had in store for me in the city, but what else was a deprived orphan supposed to do?
When I lived in Nairobi, I enrolled in grade 6 in a school. It was difficult to adapt to my new school. Students formed cliques according to their social status and I struggled to fit in. I was teased and nicknamed “mshamba” because I came from the countryside. I had a passion for writing and speaking, but I found myself staying silent because I wanted to hide my accent.
I was so desperate to fit in, I got involved with things that were dangerous for me. I may have become more popular among my peers, but my academic performance suffered.
“You are going back to the village”
This was my aunt’s voice — despite my pleas — for mercy. My aunt wanted me to undergo female genital mutilation, a practice popular in my homeland. I underwent the cut. I tried to resist but this only resulted in the mutilating knife injuring my chest. The pain was excruciating. Why did I have to undergo all this?
“Why should a girl go to school?”
After the healing process, I managed to go back to school in 2012. This time, I was more driven. I completed my primary education and excelled. I wanted to go to secondary school, but I didn’t think I could because of the cost. My family and friends perceived my hope to continue my education as a waste of time, “Why should a girl go to school?,” they asked. Luckily, I got a scholarship! Through the dark tunnel, I saw light at the end and I watched my once shattered dreams rejuvenate. I never dreamed of a better life. But in every cloud there always a silver lining, right?
“Once you empower a lady, you empower a nation”
Today, I walk along the corridors of Makueni girls High school. I am elated, but my smile also masks the problems I have undergone. I am not the only student here with scars. Many come from backgrounds like mine. I stay focused on my dream of becoming a surgeon. My suffering has become the source of my remarkable strength. Despite the difficulties I face each day in my pursuit for an education, life has taught me never to give up.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hidel is a 15-year-old student from Nairobi, Kenya.