Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Meet 29-year-old Suwaiba Yunusa, the only female teacher at a primary school in Roni, Jigawa

29-year-old Suwaiba Yunusa is the only female teacher at Janbulo Islamiyya Primary School in Roni, Jigawa State.

"There aren’t many female teachers in the state so we are fortunate to have even one." says Headmaster Shaaibu Hassan. 

Some of the male teachers said that as as the only female member of staff, Suwaiba is far more than just another teacher.

"When they know there is a female teacher in the school, parents are easily convinced to send their girls to school," says one teacher.

"When the girls see her coming sometimes they start chanting her name. I think it’s because they are so happy to see someone who is like them," says another.

Speaking to the Global Partnership for Education, Suwaiba said:  "In our culture, it is inappropriate for male teachers to help the older girls one on one; they are also limited in their ability to discipline the older girls. But a female teacher—like a mother—can discipline a child of any gender and any age. "

She is also on hand to deal with the expected challenges that come up around older girls and menstruation that her male colleagues only laughed nervously about. But Suwaiba recognizes that perhaps her most important function is as a role model.

"Growing up I had two women teachers. I remember thinking I wanted to be like them. Now I am. So I know how important it is when the girls come up to me and say, ‘When I grow up I want to be a teacher like you."

"Last year, I was so happy. There were two other female teachers assigned to this school. We would work together to do exercises with the children. We would meet between classes and talk about whatever problems we faced in the classroom. This year, because there are so few female teachers around, they were transferred to other schools. Now, honestly, I don’t enjoy coming to school anymore. I feel so lonely and isolated. The male teachers all sit together and talk in the shade. Culturally, there is no way I can sit and talk with them. And there is no staff room where I can go and sit. So between classes I just wander here and there by myself with no one to talk to. I am thinking about leaving. I told the headmaster that if they can’t bring in another female teacher soon, I want to transfer to another school"

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