November 12, 2018

"I was the first in my family to go to school - now I help other children to get a good education"

Abdoul Fataou Maiga is helping other children to get the same opportunity as him

Abdoul Fataou Maiga

Global Youth Ambassador from Burkina Faso

A Global Youth Ambassador explains how, growing up in a village in Burkina Faso, he had to overcome cultural and other barriers to enrol in school.

My name is Abdul Maiga. I am currently in my fifth year of medical studies at the National University of Ouagadougou, the first and largest university in Burkina Faso. 

I live in the national capital of Ouagadougou, where I continue my medical studies. In addition, I am a hospital trainee at the Yalgado Ouedraogo National Hospital. 

I am 24 years old and I dream of becoming a specialist doctor in public health and nutrition. I hope to become an international health leader and coach in health and nutrition, especially nutrition in childhood.

Burkina Faso is located in the heart of West Africa and is part of what is called sub-Saharan Africa. I am from the Sahel region in Northern Burkina Faso and my village is called Falaguntu. The village is located on the Burkina/Niger border and a little part of Mali. 

I come from a modest family of five children including three brothers and two sisters. I am the fourth child. 

In my family, no adult or child had the chance to go to school besides myself.

In our village, 70% of school-aged children do not have access to an education because of cultural ideologies and  poverty. Since childhood we have been made to believe that school is for the children of the rich and not for the poor and the peasants. 

Parents think that by putting their children into school they will not be able to cultivate their fields to feed the family. So they prefer not to put them into school at all.

There are many barriers to education in my country, particularly in my village. 

Some of these are early marriage, tradition, lack of awareness of the importance of school and lack of resources. 

I was lucky enough to go to school thanks to my big brother (a local teacher) who travelled to cities like Ouagadougou and came to see my parents to tell them to put me into school. 

My father, after several hesitations, finally accepted and let me go. I was then seven years old and he enrolled me at the madrassa (traditional Arabic school) to learn the Koran. 

At school, I was always the first in my class up until receiving a High School Certificate. I won a National Scholarship to study medicine.

As soon as I became aware of the importance of having a quality education, I committed myself to the mission of working to give the chance to the many children who are deprived of the opportunity in my community, to allow them to have a good education and a brighter future.

I come from a region of Burkina where there is the lowest schooling rate in the country, a region of poverty and illiteracy. 

Abdoul comes from an area of high poverty and illiteracy

In my community at Falaguntu, there are many problems such as early and often forced marriage, child labour in difficult conditions, female genital mutilation and difficult access to quality health care. 

Due to tradition and ignorance, nearly 90% of girls are married before the age of 15 -  many girls are married at nine, 10 or 11 years old! Girls are circumcised, married against their will and have no chance of going to school. It's horrible, it makes me cry every time I think about it. 

The boys get married very early. Many of my classmates have dropped out of school to get married and they currently have two, three or four children each at 24 years old. 

Myself? My parents have tried several times to give me a wife in marriage but I refused and I told them I must finish my studies.

Faced with all the challenges against education in my community, I am committed to educating parents, starting with my own family. 

This was positive because they allowed me to enrol three of my nephews in school. But they told me they cannot afford for them to go to school.

Since then I have been paying for school fees, health and everything else that the three children need for them to continue studying. 

If each of us did small actions within our community, we could give more chance to the most disadvantaged children.

I also pleaded for about 30 children and they are all currently at school. Every holiday when I come back to the village, I gather them, giving them gifts and I motivate them to continue. 

I give them a lot of advice and I tell them mostly not to let the parents give them wives early.

I encourage girls especially because they are the ones who have many more barriers to access to education and they are given in marriage at a very early age.

My means are very limited because I am still a student. But I do not expect the government or NGOs to help, so I do what I can. The government alone cannot solve all the problems - every citizen must take concrete action.

I firmly believe that access to quality education is a right for all children across the world. It is in this manner that we will build together a more just and prosperous world.

If each of us did small actions within our community, we could give more chance to the most disadvantaged children. 

I call all young people to commit to this cause and we will succeed.

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