Our unsuspecting heroine

Alice and Mariama R
Mariama and Alice

I am often asked what daily life is like for the average Nigerien, particularly for primary students in Niger.  It’s difficult to explain that to someone who has never visited the country. So, I decided that a video may be helpful.

As a former Peace Corps Volunteer in the same village where the boarding school is, Alice seemed like the perfect person to help with this project.  Happily, she followed Mariama around with a video camera from dawn to dusk. I feel so fortunate that Mariama’s family was so gracious about letting us do that. I have to say that I learned so much more about life here from watching the video. I’m looking forward to showing it to people in the States.  The following is Alice’s very moving account of the day:

Our unsuspecting heroine

Who knew a shy seven year old nigerienne could be such a star?

It made my day of shadowing a child in Niger to capture the essence of an average “day in the life” in Niger surprising, and, without a doubt, fun. I had set out to show the “typical” day: repetitious tasks, daily school lessons, the usual processes that make Nigerien life different from life in America.

From the start, Mariama showed me and all those who will view her “day” that she is far from average and that daily life in Niger is far from typical.  Mariama seemed unphased, rather, determined, to shown the foreign visitor in her home (me!) from the moment she opened her eyes in the morning, til the moment she closed them at night what life was truly like for her.  She set about her tasks with concentration and ease.  From feeding the fire so she could take a warm bath, to dutifully following her teachers’ lesson at school, to fighting the swarm of school colleagues so she could purchase a mid-day snack, Mariama proved herself independent, driven and patient.

Throughout the day, amongst the masses of school children, Mariama always stood out. Part of it was her outstanding character, part of it her bright-green hijab (head covering) she had selected to wear. By the end of the day, Kara and I had decided that Mariama was indeed a heroine, and her hijab was her “costume”.

Our heroine showed me that no day and no child in Niger is indeed average. What is routine for her (lighting a fire so she could bathe with warm water) is otherworldly to me. I saw, through tagging along closely with our nigerienne heroine, that each day is unique, each child outstanding, making Niger far from typical indeed.