Fulani girls transporting water 1.5 miles.
As new schools open in rural and marginalized areas of Niger, a gap is forming between unschooled adults and educated young people. Parents who worked their whole lives are wondering why their children are exhausted after a day at school: “You have been sitting in a chair all day. Why are you so tired?” Some parents find it especially difficult to understand the value of education for girls when there are so many chores to do at home, like pulling water from the well, pounding grain, and collecting firewood for cooking.
In the RAIN mentoring program, local women from rural areas sponsor young girls, serving as a liaison between the school staff and parents, advocating for the girls’ education, and teaching them practical skills in semi-formal workshops. The workshops enable mentors and students to revisit key concepts learned at school using their mother tongue, and to supplement the informal learning that goes on in everyday village life with practical skills. The acquisition of practical skills is important because it helps the community see that supporting education is not a contradiction to their culture.
RAIN mentor Fatimata lives in Ouro Jelgoobe (or ‘Home of the Jelgoobe’), a part of the Nassile region where the famously nomadic Jelgoobe Fulani are located. Fatimata spends time with her students in a novel way: she accompanies them into the countryside in search of a particular kind of thick grass. Fatimata is a master crafter of secco mats; long mats which make the nomadic dome tents the Jelgoobe Fulani live in easy to disassemble and reassemble as families move with their cows in search of pastureland.
During Fatimata's time with her group of girls, she will teach them every step of the craft, from the collection of the thick grass to the final stages of production. At the same time, as they talk about school and other issues, Fatimata will serve as an informal counselor and ally, and they will form an important bond of trust. Mentors like Fatimata bonding with at-risk girls during familiar tasks while encouraging their studies is wholly unique. Normally, nomadic girls would accomplish these sorts of chores accompanied by family members, with discussions revolving around gossip or small talk rather than education - for a comparison, think of what you talk about when you go food shopping with a friend.
Your support makes it possible for RAIN mentors to champion girls’ dreams of education, offer support for schools, and make a lasting and positive difference to Niger’s future.
A nomadic Fulani camp with secco mat tents.
Nassile students in class.
Mentor Faimata Boukari