Katumi Hussein is a firm believer in the power of eduction to change lives for the better. At the age of 13, she was sleeping on the streets and working as a street porter for a meagre income because she couldn’t afford to go to secondary school. Now with support from UK aid, Katumi has been able to complete secondary school and intends to train as a nurse. Katumi’s story is just one example of the millions of girls whose lives are being transformed by UK aid.
Watch Katumi’s story (Video: Camfed)
From hardship to a hopeful future
When Katumi was still in primary school, her parents separated, and her mother, who was uneducated, found herself unable to look after her four daughters on her own.
Katumi went to live with her aunt but she had to work to support herself. Every day after school she went to the market, where women vendors gave her a portion of their produce to hawk. “The money I was earning was never enough,” she says. “I couldn’t afford a school uniform so my friends gave me their old uniforms.”
Risking everything for the chance of a better life
Katumi returned home to her mother after completing junior high school but when her mother told her to abandon her plans of continuing her education, she decided to leave for Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana, to seek work. “It was to earn money for school that I was doing all that,” she says.
“I stood at the bus station until evening,” she says. “I didn’t know anybody and I didn’t know where I would go. I was asking myself what will happen to me.” She eventually met a group of young girls who showed her where she could sleep. She parted with all the savings she had as payment for sleeping space on the floor in front of a shop. Katumi earned money by carrying shoppers’ heavy load of goods on her head from the market to their destinations.
“Working in that place was very risky,” Katumi says of the market. She recalls the night one of the girls was shot by armed robbers. Fearing for her safety, Katumi paid for the floor space of one of the older girls in return for her protection. “Sometimes, she would cover me with her things when the boys came to harass us for our money in the night, or she would look after my sleeping spot so no one would take it if I returned from work after dark.”
When Katumi learnt of her admission into Tamale Senior High, she returned to her aunt’s house. She had saved 300 cedis (£120) - not enough to cover all of her school costs, but her aunt borrowed money to supplement her school fees and buy other school items.
In 2010, Tamale Senior High school was added onto a UK aid funded programme delivered by the non-governmental organisation Camfed. Katumi was selected for a full package of support - including fees, uniform, shoes and books. “Camfed’s intervention came at the right time to redeem my aunt and me from the shame we were going through as a result of our inability to re-pay the money we borrowed,” says Katumi. “It also gave me a peaceful mind and I am motivated to study hard.”
“Another door that opened to me through Camfed’s support is the opportunity is fulfill my dreams of becoming a role model to the girls in my community. These girls do not have any one to look up to and as a result, do not go to school. I will tell my fellow girls that they can make it in life if they believe in themselves.”
Helping girls like Katumi go to school is one of the best investments we can make in the future of the world’s poorest children. Education gives children more choice and more opportunity, which can hold the key to beating poverty.
For girls, the benefits are even greater because it can kick start a chain reaction of positive effects that can be passed onto whole families and communities - and to future generations. The longer a girl stays in school, the more able she is to take good care of her family, to seek medical support when needed and to get a job that will help her support her family and send her own children to school.
Katumi plans to be a nurse so she can return to Kadriso, the village where she was born. Currently, there is no clinic, and people must walk several miles to reach a health care facility. Last year, Katumi’s mother died there, so her desire to help is profoundly personal. “I want to help my people so they get the medical care they need before it’s too late,” she says.
Facts and stats
UK aid is changing lives through learning. Over the next four years we will secure schooling for 11 million of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged children.
More than half of the children in Ghana never go to secondary school - the majority of these are girls.
Early marriage, pregnancy and child labour are the most common causes for girls dropping out of education.
Camfed’s UK aid funded bursary programme in Ghana helps to address these issues. By the end of 2010, the programme had provided a complete package of support to more than 12,300 girls like Katumi.
Over the next 4 years, DFID will help 118,000 more children in Ghana to obtain primary education, of which around 50% will be girls. We will also help an additional 60,000 girls to attend secondary school.
Around half the reduction in child mortality over the last 40 years - some four million lives - can be attributed to improvements in female education.
The UN estimates that universal secondary education for girls in sub-Saharan Africa could save as many as 1.8 million lives every year.