3 August 2020 - Niger

Harira's story: Learning against the odds

Harira sits at home

Children around the world have been deeply impacted by the lockdowns in place to halt the spread of coronavirus. In April, 1.6 billion young people were out of school due to the pandemic. 

Today, many children are now back learning – either in school or remotely. But for children in Niger, the picture is different.

Our new Save Our Education report found children in Niger were at highest risk in the world of not returning to school after COVID-19 lockdown measures are lifted. 

An additional 1.2 million children and young people in the country were pushed out of school at the peak of the restrictive COVID-19 measures in the country, bringing the total number who were not receiving an education to 3.8 million[i].

Although schools have now reopened, many of these pupils may never go back into education due to insecurity and attacks on education, poverty, child marriage and child labour - particularly girls.

Even before the outbreak, the country had the highest rate of children out of school and a sharp divide in school attendance according to affluence, gender and whether they live in rural or urban areas.

We spoke to 11-year-old Harira from Niger about how the lockdown measures had impacted her education. Fortunately, her school reopened in June and today, against the odds, she is back learning after missing 10 weeks of school.

"When school was closed because of coronavirus, I was not happy at all because we could no longer study and I could not meet my friends.

"At school we study mathematics, calculations, geography, natural science, physical science, but my favorite one is history class because we learn historical facts of Niger and the whole world.

"I first heard about coronavirus in assembly at school. They said to protect ourselves from contamination. We have to wash our hands with soap and clean water. Respect the distance of one meter between us. Avoid shaking hands. Cough into your elbows.

"I was scared by this coronavirus disease because they say it has no cure, if you get infected you can die from it.

"When we were told that because of coronavirus, we were not going to go back to school I felt sad.

"I was at home doing nothing but housework. I wasn't happy. We sometimes took our notebooks to revise while waiting for the reopening of schools.

Harira helps out at home.

"Normally when we have class, in the morning I wake up I take a shower, I pray, we have breakfast, I study, my parents give me fees for the recreation and once at school I study my lessons.

"When the bell rings, we raise the flag, and then we go into the classroom. In the classroom we greet the teacher and start with lessons. After school, when the bell rings, everyone goes home with their friends.

"When the schools were closed we did not have access to any radio or online courses.

"I would have liked the government or the village chief to have made arrangements that would have allowed us to continue with our classes.

Harira's classroom in Niger, which is supported by Save the Children.

"I'd like to keep studying until high school.

"I think girls need to continue their education for their own development. Those who don’t study ignorant because they don’t know what's going on in the world and how the world works.

"I dream of becoming a teacher. If I don't study I’ll just remain ignorant."

Harira attends a school supported by Save the Children, including by building latrines, classrooms, providing desks and other classroom equipment and providing bicycles to children so they can reach school. Save the Children has also provided hand washing stations and soap to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Save the Children is also help offering catch-up classes and literacy courses to girls from 9-13 years old. In these classes, girls also learn about the devastating impacts of child marriage and early pregnancy.

Read more about our Save Our Education report.

[i] As per July 22nd. See: https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse 

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