By Ismail Auwal
Ikleemat Abdulqadir was 19 years old when she married her husband Musa Hussaini Musa, just 24 hours after she finished writing her Senior Secondary School Examination (SSCE), in Yobe State, northeastern Nigeria.
The 30-year old mother of three identified her husband as her best friend, and described her transition from being a teenager to a housewife as not an easy one. Before her marriage, she said she was tense because there were so many differing opinions from the family, friends, and the community. The majority advised her to delay marriage until she completed at least an NCE program, but some said she can combine both college education and marriage.
Despite her love for her husband, the first few months of her marriage were a stumbling block. She recalled how, as a teenager, she struggled with figuring out how she would deal with marriage.
She told SAHELIAN TIMES that being accepted into a three-year Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) program to study Integrated Science and Biology Education presented her with a glimpse of her bright future.
However, the new life brought with it a new set of challenges. “It has been difficult to strike a balance between matrimonial life and schoolwork. But because I always encouraged myself and received support from my husband, family, and friends, I was able to adjust to my new life quickly.”
She recalled how her first year at the Federal College of Education (Technical) Potiskum was smooth and easy, with no hiccups other than adjusting to higher education standards.
“The second year was a little difficult for me because I had already become a mother, having given birth to my first child. It was difficult, but I didn’t give up.”
“I overcame it with the help of my husband; we shared housework, and during exams, he would look after our child at night so that I can study.”
“What kept me going was that I told myself earlier that I could do it, so I struggled until my college graduation,” she said.
Ikeelima told SAHELIAN TIMES that she wanted to return to school for a degree program, but her husband’s financial ability would not allow him to sponsor her education because his responsibilities had begun to pile up.
“We enrolled our first child in nursery school, and we had to pay his school fees. Fortunately, I gave birth to our second child almost immediately after graduating.”
“I eventually began to broaden my horizons. I sat down with my husband and discussed ways to earn extra money. Following our meeting, I submitted my credentials to a private school just a short distance from my home,” she said.
Ikleemat explained that as a teacher, her extra income comes with extra responsibilities. “In order to strike a balance between matrimonial responsibilities and my job, I hired a nanny to look after my my second child, whom I was paying out of the little I was earning.”
“I was adored by the students, their parents, and the school administration; this piqued my interest in furthering my research in order to advance professionally.”
“A newly established school contacted me a year after my first appointment as a classroom teacher based on a referral/recommendation.”
“They invited me for an interview. I nailed the interview, and the next thing was my offer letter as a new school head. I accepted and moved to the new school.”
“New life, new challenges, it was difficult at first because the school only had 16 nursery students and a teacher. I nearly gave up on the new challenge and thought of going back to my former school would be the solution, but then I realized this is exactly what I want; out-of-the-box challenges and building new things from scratch.”
What is the solution now that I’m staying? I tightened my belt, worked hard, and conducted research day and night, and guess what? My school director and husband are all teachers. They have more experience than I do. Whenever I have a question, I asked them first before looking it up on the internet. They have greatly aided my journey.
“As I did in my previous school, I established good relationships with the students and their parents, and within a year we had a massive enrollment of about 150 students and the recruitment of four additional teachers, making a total of six, as well as a nanny and security guard.”
As the school grew, I faced new challenges while performing my duties effectively. Some people thought I wasn’t qualified for the position because I’m a woman in my early twenties.
“They attempted to exert pressure on me, either directly or indirectly. When we were interviewing people, one of the interview committee members asked the interviewee that question: “Are you okay with being commanded by a girl? Or can you stand being commanded by a lady who is younger than you? ” That question scolded me so much that I just pulled myself together.”
Ikeelima has faced many challenges and discrimination simply because she is a woman, but these had only strengthened her, she said.
Ikeelima went on to say that whenever she is in a bad mood, she would take out her pen, write a short story, share it on social media, or read a book to distract herself.
Three years after becoming principal, Ikeelema resigned and returned to school for a degree program.
“I’ve saved enough money to cover my school fees for three years. I filled out my resignation form right away.”
“The school administration said I should resign, and the reason they gave was specific. They changed my position from school head to vice principal on student affairs at one of their campuses.”
“I proceeded to gain admission into a 200-level degree program at the Federal College of Education (Technical), Potiskum, which is affiliated with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, to study B. Tech (Ed) Biology Education.”
“My life changed; I had to balance three responsibilities: teaching, housework, and school, which was not easy.” After a while, I decided to leave the job and focus on school and housework because I had three children, two of whom were in school and the third was cared for by a nanny.”
“A year after I officially resigned from the school, I thought to myself, what if I try something new?” What if I come up with something completely different? You’ve heard of the first point of contact, right? I was with my husband, and we came up with the idea of starting a retail business to help me earn money while I study. I eventually started a retail business, which has been going well up to this point.
Ikleema, is a final year student of the Federal College of Education (Technical), Potiskum, which is affiliated with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, to study B. Tech (Ed) Biology Education.”