“Going back to school changed my life…”

Dropping out didn’t stop Rita from achieving her dreams…

“Going back to school changed my life…”

“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.” – Malala Yousafzai

I dropped out of school in primary three. My parents didn’t have enough money for my fees. I vowed not to give up. I always dreamt of going back to school. Yes, we were poor. Yes, I needed to help out in my parents’ kiosk. But still, I dreamt – especially when I saw kids my age looking smart in their uniforms. How I longed to be in their shoes again.

One Wednesday morning, my aunt Gloria came to visit. She was shocked to see me at home and I told her how much I wanted to go back to school. She sat my parents down and told them education was very important. She said if they sent me back to school, I’d learn lots of stuff that could help me to become successful in the future. When my parents said they couldn’t afford my fees in full, she offered to contribute. My parents realised how important this was to me and my aunt and tried their best to come up with the rest of the money to send me to school.

On my first day, my heart pounded on and on. I thought my classmates would look down on me since I’d been gone for a few months. Instead, they were super helpful. They lent me their notebooks and helped me catch up with them. Throughout that period, I worked very hard. I knew I had to make myself and my family proud. It wasn’t easy, but everyone was so kind and supportive.

Before then, I was a little shy. I hardly said a word in class. But this time around, I started asking questions, making friends and joining clubs. That’s how I found out that I wasn’t just good in math and spelling, but also in running and table tennis. I learned a lot and had so much fun along the way.

Years later, I became the sports prefect in secondary school. Nobody was surprised. I had already led my school to many competitions. When I was in SS3, a team came to select promising athletes. They picked me and three others. At first we didn’t know what it meant. Then they explained that we were getting a full sports scholarship to a university, that we would represent the university in national competitions. I remember pinching my arm to make sure it was real.

Today I’m studying physical and health education. I also coach young athletes in my community. Most importantly, I’m organising a sports event to raise money for girls to go to school. It changed my life, and it can change theirs too. By the way, guess who is the reigning table tennis champion in the Nigerian University Games? You guessed it: me.


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