Wiping Halima’s Tears

Wiping Halima’s Tears

No, not Halima, the one that actually made me feel my teaching was making an impact. No, not her. Every day I sat like a zombie and watched as they came and withdrew my students; and metamorphosed them into women, I thought.

“Miss Naichaya, my father respects teachers he will listen to you.” Halima’s small voice brought me out of my reverie, my dazed eyes roved around the sparse furnishings in the staff room and came to rest on Halima’s face.

“Wipe your tears Halima. I will go and see your father after school today.” I promised.

“Thank you, thank you Miss Nachaiya!” Halima said profusely and left the staff room.

“I will try my best.” I resolved within myself at her departure.

It was with that resolve I stepped on the threshold of the Funtua’s. The Funtua’s compound was a big one; it had four small huts and a big hut.

A lone cow stood eating grass beside the farthest of the small huts, which said a lot. In these parts a man’s worth was gauged by the number of cattle he had.

Halima’s father was seated outside his hut-the big one. “Aha Teacher! You are very welcome to my humble abode.” he said with a gap toothed grin.

“Good afternoon Alhaji.”

“How are you teacher? What brings the generous teacher to my home?” Alhaji Attahiru asked.

Running my sweaty palms across the hem of my Mary Slessor style skirt, I said, “Alhaji you once assured me that I was welcome to your compound anytime.”

“It is true teacher, sit-down.”  Alhaji pointed at the wooden bench he was seated on, “Let me call for some fura de nunu.” he offered.

“Alhaji please don’t bother about a drink, I have come on Halima’s account.”

Then let us go inside my hut for some privacy.” He invited, leading the way.

Inside the hut Halima’s father yelled, “Amina have someone bring me a mat and get some fura de nunu for teacher.”

Two barely clad children ran in with a raffia mat, they spread it on the mud floor and scurried off.

“Teacher thank you for all the gifts and help you render to my children in your school. Allah will reward you.” Alhaji said as Amina a fair well-rounded woman walked in carrying a calabash, which she gave me.

Hands outstretched I collected the calabash, “Thank you.” I said to Amina.

I knocked down some sips of the local brew- wishing it had the ability to provide the much needed Dutch-courage, then I broached the subject of my visit. “Alhaji permit me to talk to you about Halima’s impending marriage.”

“You may go ahead.”

“Alhaji, please Halima is too young to get married. She is the most intelligent student in my class; she has the potentials to achieve more if left to complete her primary and at least her secondary education.” I started boldly.

“Everyday teacher our daughters get married at Halima’s age so she is not too young but since you say she is very intelligent it is good; but …”

I interrupted Alhaji, ‘Please before you go on listen to my story. Ten years ago, I know of a little girl who was in the same predicament as Halima. Her teacher at the time pleaded with her father to allow her stay in school and he granted her request. Today that little girl is before you, and wants your daughter- Halima to be left in school.”

“Teacher I’m glad you were allowed to stay in school but where do you propose I get the money to pay Alhaji Ribadu?”

“Who is Alhaji Ribadu?” I probed.

“He is Halima’s suitor, I owe him some money.”

“Alhaji are you saying that if the money is provided, Halima’s marriage can be stopped?” I asked hopefully.

“Yes if the money is paid, the marriage can be cancelled. Halima is the pride of this household; she is the most educated person in this family, people come from neighbouring villages for her to read their letters. My daughter makes us really proud but for this debt I would have allowed her to continue schooling. My other children have refused to step into the four walls of a school. It’s a pity she would have to stop schooling.” He lamented.

“Alhaji forgive my asking, but how much is it you owe Alhaji Ribadu?”

“Twenty thousand naira.”

“Twenty thousand naira!” I exclaimed.

“Do not be alarmed teacher. Alhaji Ribadu will cancel the whole debt if he marries Halima.” He explained.

I was only surprised you were giving your daughter out for peanuts, I thought to myself and said aloud “I will get you the money to pay the debt.”

“Thank you, teacher but Alhaji Ribadu will be disappointed because plans have already begun for the Nikkai. He is a man with good intentions.”

“Alhaji a man with good intentions will never offer to cancel a debt with marriage.”

“You may have a point there, thank you teacher.”

The moment I stepped out of the hut I bumped into Halima who had been eavesdropping and got the biggest hug of my life.

“Thank you Ma, Thank you.” Halima screamed with tears of joy. We shared a triumphant hug for some time then Halima walked me to the gate of their compound, as I was walking away, Halima stopped me with a question; “Miss Naichaiya is this the end, will my father never have another debt to pay?”

39 thoughts on “Wiping Halima’s Tears” by Ellie (@elly)

  1. Nice one…I like…The burdens the north offers for their young daughters still baffles all…May God help….

    1. Thank you treasured1,baffles me too. God’s help we await…

  2. I hope Halima’s father never has another debt to pay. How long would the teacher’s generosity last?

    This is very good, Elly.

    1. Thanks a lot Uche, I hope so too…

  3. Was about to ask that final question? Think children deserve all the education they can get. Good story. Sweet, short, sexy and simple. Elly, you got me tripping.

    1. sexy? what’s sexy about the story?

      1. No mind Jaywriter o! U no say na babe dey inspire am, remember? :D

        1. ok i no go mind, seeing has he get’s his inspiration from babes…

    2. JAYWRITER! sexy? Well,infl, thanks a lot.

  4. That final question made the story for me. For as long as people don’t believe in the rights of a child, there will always be a reason, an inexcusable reason, to take advantage of and abuse them.
    A simple, yet powerful story, Elly.

    1. Thanks a lot, Lade.Very true, there will always be an inexcusable reason…

  5. Great story Elly..Sadly I witnessed this during my service year in the North. Though unlike Halima, most of the girls I taught never dared to imagine another course of life…Well done gal!!

    1. Thanks a lot Mercy, good to know you had a firsthand experience.

  6. Elly, you are surely a whopping storyteller, girl! You caught me throughout the whole story. The tail end of this story kinda reminded me of the tail end of the Sharon Stone movie BASIC INSTINCT part 1. Poor Halima asked that rhetorical question because her fate is still determined by her father. Elly, you are a feminist to the core with this piece, dear. With so little, you brought out so much, it’s that simple! Well done! :D

    1. thanks a lot Emmanuella for your comments, i guess i am a feminist, but not yet to the core will get there soon i hope.

    2. Have noticed you make references to movies. No wonder Jay considers you his mastress.

      1. @abby, to be perfectly honest with you, I have no idea what ‘mastress’ means. I just went with the flow, dear. :D Na stamp @Jaywriter don give me, o! I make references to movies because I watch them a lot, especially old skools. Na so I see am, o! :)

        1. I think that might be one of his reasons. He is a movie buff (I think) and always makes references to same.

          But don’t sweat it, just thought to mention.

  7. Beautiful,very beautiful,I like so much,but my father would rather die,than let me marry someone old enough to be my grand father ‘coz of debt.

    1. Thanks a lot Gretel, but thats the fate of some folks…

  8. I like the beautiful expose you did with this story on how young female children are traded off for selfish reasons by parents. The story replays the kind of happenings behind the infamous child marriages that take place among rural northerners.

    I like the way you wrote an actual sad incident in a bright and optimistic way. The teacher chararcter is a strong symbol of hope.

    I also like the cliffhanger at the end. It gets us all thinking that it could happen again. Or still, maybe the story isnt finished.

    But I think you should check out on a fact – If the father is an ‘Alhaji’ that means he has been to Mecca (Thats what an Alhaji is). And being poor he may not be able to afford going there. Wouldn’t it have been safer to refer to him as a ‘Mallam’ which is also a northern term?

      1. Then again, Mallam might just be better, thanks guys…

    1. Thanks a lot Afronuts for your comments and about the ‘Alhaji’ title, every year the government sponsors pilgrims to Mecca, not everyone goes from their own finances. Even christains are sponsored to Jerusalem, but politicians and ‘man know man’ hijack it.

  9. @Afronuts, there could be poor Alhajis too, you know. Maybe at some point, preparing for their trip to Mecca on pilgrim, there was finance available for that trip. Just a thought, anyway.

    1. na poor and fake Alhaji plenty pass…lol

  10. very lovely story and a good theme too.
    i had the opportunity of schooling in the north so i saw all these things happen almost daily.its just terrible.
    well done.

    1. Thanks a lot Anderson, another firsthand experience, good to know you had one. It is terrible.

  11. you are welcome Elly,its just unfortunate that i see no hope where this matter is concerned.
    i’m sure it will continue because it is already in their culture.

  12. @Elly, I loved this story because it talked about an issue that is close to my heart – youth education. I also loved it because of the understated yet powerful way you explored the issue. And I absolutely loved the ending which showed Halima’s hope, yet which also showed how difficult the problem is to resolve.

    Please accept 25 points for enriching my life in this way.

    1. Thanks a lot TolaO,i am glad you liked it and are also passionate about youth education- the neglect of which is costing us a lot. I am humbled at the 25points and i accept it wholeheartedly.

  13. You just got me floating … thats my view!

    1. Thanks a lot boomingsols.

  14. Nice job Elly. That was a good question that was asked at the end.
    I remember a Jss3 girl in my school then who had the same fate. She told the Principal and it eventually spiralled into a pretty public and televised event. Needless to say, she wasn’t married off.

    Unfortunately, some of the young girls do (can?) not fight.

    1. Thanks a lot abby, i’m glad the girl wasn’t married off, but like you asked, how many of them have that fate?

  15. love the topic u chose to write on, and i like the way u told the story…very good work girl!

  16. Thanks a lot for reading and dropping a line.

  17. Good work Elly- I liked your approach on this sensitive topic.

  18. Thanks a lot ce ug.

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