What happens to graduates of the schools we support? Do they go on to high school and college? Are they able to get jobs? If so, where do they work? These were some of the questions I set out to answer when I visited Niger in January. While I already had a general sense of the answers, I thought it would be interesting and helpful to talk to graduates. I wanted to see what they are up to now and, looking back, what they thought about their education.
That is how I happened upon a really interesting and entertaining conversation with Ilisha. He works as a nurse at a mission hospital in a small village not far from the boarding school he attended and we support. He graduated almost 25 years ago and has worked as a nurse for about 15 years. He’s a tall, thin man who has a very pleasant demeanor. He lit up when I asked him about the boarding school. He told me about how he really enjoyed his experience because of the teachers and how serious they are. Not only do the teachers like their students and enjoy what they’re doing, but more specifically, that they teach the entire time they are in class and they rarely miss a day’s work. This is not the norm in Niger. It reminded me of what one parent told me, “I believe that this is one of the last schools in Niger where the teachers like teaching and the students like learning.”
Ilisha also told me an amusing story that he obviously enjoyed telling as much as I enjoyed hearing. It was about how he and his friends decided to sneak some mangos from the local mango tree. While it was funny to hear Ilisha tell about the camaraderie and the trouble they got themselves into more striking to me was the information he gave about each friend as he listed them off.
All seven of them have very good jobs. The professions include working for large aide organizations, such as World Vision, high level government jobs, nursing, teaching and one man even owns his own business. Ilisha sends all three of his children to the boarding school. He told me that while he would love to have them stay at home and attend the local village school, he believes that the boarding school is the best boarding school in Niger. He wants his children to have the same opportunities he had.
I’ve witnessed the commitment EERN staff and teachers have to what they are trying to accomplish. Remember Niger’s efforts to help them will truly lead to more success stories such as Ilisha’s.