The path leading to Igmin Kibe Education Center is long and winding. The dust rises in the air following the footsteps of villagers and the occasional wild animal. On a clear-skied afternoon, a young girl atop a bicycle made her way down the dirt trail. She cycled closer and those who recognized her smiled at the sight. Dorcas, one of the girls who attended Igmin Kibe, was steering her bike with one hand and holding a book with the other, refusing to pause the story into which she’d entered.
According to unesco.org, less than 40% of countries provide girls and boys with equal access to education, and of the world’s 123 million illiterate youth, 76 million are female.
Stephen Igba, Back2Back’s Community Outreach Coordinator, has known Dorcas’ family for a while, and immediately saw something unforgettable in the young girl. He and Daniel Asama, Back2Back Nigeria Director, visited the family regularly, following the passing of Dorcas’ father. Daniel laughs as he remembers one of his first interactions with Dorcas. “I was visiting Kisayhip, the village where the family lives, and she approached without fear and asked, ‘Uncle, why aren’t I in your program? What do I have to do to be chosen?’” From an early age, Dorcas knew she wanted more for her life.
Despite all international and national efforts, over half of children out of school in the world are girls. Thirty-one million girls don’t attend school or receive an education globally. (unesco.org)
When two spots opened at the center, Stephen knew one of them belonged to Dorcas. Her mother, however, was fearful of traditional schooling – her daughter was behind academically, unable to read, and thus would be singled out. Stephen assured her this was just the kind of student Back2Back wanted to come alongside, and then Dorcas met Kenneth, a dedicated tutor at the center.
Unable to read, socially backward, and with few friends to call her own, twelve-year old Dorcas began at the center. Kenneth set up lessons with her to improve her reading skills before formal schooling started. Within a year, Dorcas skipped two grades and represented her class in math competitions, and with newfound confidence and literacy, she became a voracious reader.
Literacy is a fundamental right for women. “On its own, literacy neither saves lives nor fills hungry mouths,” says Katy Newell-Jones of Feed the Minds. “. . .A woman who is able to keep her own business records is more likely to be able to manage her income and expenditure; and the children of a literate mother are more likely to complete their education.”
Dorcas read, and is still reading, everything she gets her hands on. As she read more, she opened her Bible more, and tutors saw a shift her spiritual life. Dorcas volunteered to share longer Biblical passages aloud during Bible studies and volunteered in the children’s department at her church, leading her own Sunday school class. She has grown spiritually commenting, “Many of the books I read contain Scripture, and what I’ve realized is, there is no separation between the secular and spiritual world – God is in every part of it.”
Dorcas is a young woman who thinks intentionally before she speaks. “She has a subtle way of speaking,” her Hope Parents, Hosanna and Esther, shared. “She selects her words carefully, always going the extra mile to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings with her feedback.” Dorcas displays a clear instinct for doing the right thing, at the right time, often feeling restless when there is a problem to be solved, She is also a self-described perfectionist. “This is why books are so appealing to me,” Dorcas explained. “They allow me to escape to another world, full of beautiful places and beautiful people. It is a place where I feel a part of something bigger.”
According to The United Nations Education, one additional year in school can increase a woman’s earnings by 10-20% over a lifetime; women with post-primary education are five times more likely than illiterate women to be educated on HIV prevention, and children of parents with a basic education are more likely to survive past the age of five.
“When I read, I often try to relate to the character’s problems, challenges, and emotions,” explained Dorcas. Once a twelve-year old girl unable to read, she’s now a Hope Program Student reading adult-level Christian fiction in her free time. “I want to understand people’s motivations, to see things from their point of view.” These skills have led Dorcas to be incredibly compassionate.
Dorcas’ reading has improved her vocabulary, helping her to interact with those around her better. Before, she felt on the outside of things, but now friendships are flourishing. Her extensive reading habits have helped her learn how to organize thoughts and construct better writing skills.
She is a girl unafraid to use her voice and unapologetic about her love for the written word. “Before Back2Back, I didn’t know how to read. My time at the center was the foundation,” she explained. “It was the solid rock to my future, and now the Hope Program is helping me realize what the future has in store for me.”
Literacy has long caused ripple effects around the world for women and children. We know where there are literate young women, there is promise for the future, and we are seeing that longevity of promise in Dorcas’ story. Day-by-day, word-by-word, Dorcas is exceeding expectation and leaving a legacy of compassion and a love for knowledge. We are grateful to bear witness to the expression of gifts God had long buried in Dorcas. It was our role to simply make room for those gifts to be discovered. Now we testify to the world – Dorcas was created for a purpose, and we delight in it.