“I couldn’t believe I could now go to school again.”
With one of the biggest gender gaps in the world, Nigerian girls face great challenges on their paths through education and formal employment. The normalization of gender-based violence and the patrilineal structure of families means that there is an unequal distribution of resources, especially regarding education. Wonder recognizes this issue and challenges it by providing scholarships for marginalized girls in order to offer them a chance to build a successful career and gain confidence.
Wavecrest is a college that these scholarships are provided for and it focuses on vocational training in the hospitality industry, the most promising sector of the Nigerian economy. Ogechi Prosper Chukwu is one of the students at Wavecrest and her story shows the resilience and willpower the students at Wavecrest bring with them. Despite several difficult setbacks, Ogechi was able to grow into a confident and hopeful woman, who can set an example for many other girls who come from a similar background.
“I was just 13 years when my mother died. She lost all my siblings either during childbirth or before they were born and so I was the only child. Those few years I spent with my Mum where my greatest treasures. She loved me a lot and she did show it. Mummy’s death left me with Dad who could barely sustain the family with his farming occupation. I got wiser and took over Mummy’s business of petty trading all through secondary school. But I could not get much as most of my day was spent in school. By the end of my secondary school, Dad remarried and I thought it was time to move on. I did other odd jobs working as a salesgirl in an electrical company but still convinced that I needed to do more.
I decided to call a distant aunt in the faraway city of Lagos asking her to allow me to live with her and to work while I save for my school fees. My aunt persuaded me to assist her in her roadside shop as a sales girl until we could get a better job. We sold plantain and airtime for phones. She did not pay me and with time she gave me more tasks and I realised that it would not be possible to leave the job. I watched many of my teenagers my age going to school and I kept up the dream of going back to school.
Meanwhile, afternoons were the least busy time so I could have a few hours of solitude to myself. I studied in the afternoon when the sun was at its peak with only a table umbrella shading me from the sun. I love reading, but I was particularly interested in Mathematics. I used my old school books and I was very grateful for a neighbour who lent me her novels to read when she noticed my interest.
After some months working in my aunt’s shop, one of my customers spotted me studying and engaged me in a conversation, wanting to know what my study plans were. I wanted to be a lawyer. She was intrigued by how I made use of every opportunity to study under the sun and with very poor candle lights in the evening. She decided to pay for me to register for the national exam that qualifies you to enter the university. I couldn’t believe I could now go to school again… sooner than I imagined! She adopted me as her ward. I now have a guardian!
I took the national exams but didn’t have a fantastic grade to study Law. In the interim, my guardian introduced Wavecrest College of Hospitality to me. She said Wavecrest offered the possibility of hospitality studies that gives one immediate employment after school. I took the entrance exams and gained admission to Wavecrest.
When I was with my Daddy I could not do housework, I could not cook or even clean the house… I didn’t know how to. The months I stayed with my aunt were no better as I spent most of the time in her shop and only came home late in the evening to catch some hours of sleep.
Coming to Wavecrest, I discovered something new… Hospitality! I have learnt how to take care of the home and have an eye for details. During my holidays I spent a few days with my aunt and she was very happy to see the quality and the types of pastries I could make. She was impressed that I was able to clean the house better than ever before. I have now understood that hospitality is more than cooking. I have come to experience a place where teachers have time and genuine care for their students. I am 19 years old now and I have made up my mind to continue with Hospitality studies in Wavecrest. When I start working, I would like to help my father and my stepsisters in their studies. I am only praying that I can have support to see me through the rest of my studies.”
Ogechi is a former student at Wavecrest College, our partner in Nigeria.