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Should Marriage Be a Barrier to Schooling? Sokoto Married Students Say No

Sauddiyah Bello married in her second year at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. Coming from the northern part of the country, where early marriage is encouraged, getting married didn’t stop her education.

Being a student is stressful already, she said, and adding nursing a baby to it can be very tedious. During her first year as an undergraduate, she stayed in the hostel, where it was easy for her to attend night classes.

Things changed when Sauddiyah got married. She could no longer live in the hostel and had to move in with her husband, who works in Sokoto town, to start their small family.

“The first challenge I faced was adjusting my reading time; I could only talk to my coursemates on the phone, and we didn’t have the chance to read together again because most of them are used to night class,” she told Campus Reporter.

Her pregnancy journey was not smooth either; she was always going in and out of the hospital. Sometimes, she moved to lecture halls from the hospital and vice versa. Her body reacted to the pregnancy harshly, and she found it hard to adjust quickly.

She was lucky to give birth during the break when all the academic activities were paused. However, when school resumed for the next semester, it was difficult for Saudiyah to adjust. As a nursing mother, she could not withstand giving her baby to nannies because he was still too small to be left alone. 

She would have to carry the baby to every lecture hall with her. Although some lecturers frowned at bringing babies to class, she asked her younger sister, who is also a student, to babysit her child during lectures.

Her husband was supportive, she said. He would drop her at school on his way to work. “I love days when my husband drops me off at school because I will be free from shuttle stress,” she said.

How did Saudiyah survive her tedious schedules during examination and aptitude test periods?

As a slow learner, she said she doesn’t wait until the test or exam season before she starts reading. 

“After having to adjust my reading time to afternoon or evening, I tried my best always to read one course a day because I feared failure. I don’t want to have any reason to regret my decision to get married,” she noted. “My marital life has never been a hindrance to my studies, and it will never be.”.

Sacrifice and Patience

Unlike Saudiyyah, whose family is based in Sokoto, where her school is located, Mariam Abdullahi is a student from Kwara State. The journey from Kwara to Sokoto is about 12 hours. Travelling to Sokoto by road can be stressful, considering the condition of the dusty, bumpy road networks.

She also doesn’t find swinging between nursing a baby and facing her studies easy. Mariam believes a student mother must sacrifice and be patient, even in the face of difficulties. Adding academics to it means extra sacrifice and patience. 

“It is different if you are in your comfort zone. Staying in a school hostel will test your patience because there will be times your roommates will disturb your baby, and the baby will also disturb them at times,” she noted.

The UDUS hostel is built so that the allocated space for each student might not be enough for them, let alone a nursing mother. However, the management built a special room for nursing mothers in one of the halls of residents, Nana Asmau, but it is not possible that it will contain all the nursing mothers on campus.

Mariam is one of the few nursing mothers who don’t reside in the school nursing mother’s room because she hasn’t been lucky to be allocated the place. 

Home is always different for everyone, and it is the same for nursing mothers. Staying in the school hostel, where everywhere is crappy and sometimes dirty, requires extra effort to make sure your baby doesn’t get infected.

When the baby started crawling, she could pick something and put it in her mouth, which is not something you will be aware of every time you are aware of it. That one can cause a problem for the baby and you as the mother, unlike when you are at home, where there is enough space and a neat environment for your baby to thrive.

Time Management

Eliza Audu is a student, a nursing mother and a trader in UDUS. She owns a shop at the hostel mini-mart, where she sells rare cooking commodities like egusi, dry fish, dry pomo, and frozen fish, among others.

As a student, she has heard her share of the hardship of motherhood, but the most important lesson she has learned during this time is how to manage your time effectively. “It is efficient that you are cautious of time in whatever you are doing in this life; that would make your affairs easier,” she said.

One of the challenges Eliza encountered was how some lecturers have zero tolerance for bringing babies to class and how they harass them sometimes to the point of weeping profusely.

“It takes a strong heart to withstand the humiliations from lecturers who blame you for bringing babies to class, but once you have learned that the particular lecture you are having would not allow you to bring your baby in, you just have to find a way to leave your child behind to attend the lecture,” she noted.

Eliza also prefers not to attend lectures if she has a way. Most times, she would feed her child and make him fall asleep to participate in classes. This doesn’t always work, as she sometimes has to give her baby out to a friend.

“I try my best to utilise my time in class very well because a lecturer’s explanation does it better for me, and I always make sure to read every day, even if it is just for one hour,” Eliza said.

“So far, God has been faithful; I have never had any reason to regret my decision to have kids while still in school because, in a real sense, it doesn’t affect me or stop my education. I am surviving,” she added.

The Mental Health Challenge

A mental health expert, Oluwabukola Oni, says schooling comes with mental stress for nursing mothers, especially if their husbands are not supportive. She recalled her encounter with a lady who was willing to give up on her education to take care of her child.

 “I guess schooling and family take a toll on her,” she said.

Oluwabukola noted that the Nigerian education system is designed to stress students, and nursing mothers are not an exception. In a situation where they had to bring their babies to class, and the baby started crying or disturbing other students, lecturers wouldn’t have any choice but to send them out of the class, and this can ultimately lead to depression in some mothers.

“We all know the importance of attendance and attending lectures in universities, so getting sent out of class because of your baby is not a good sight,” she said.

She admonished that nursing mothers need all the support they can get to make their affairs easier.

“Marriage is a good thing, and education should not stop one from getting married. The least society can do for nursing mothers on campus is to make the environment a safe place for them; they should never have a reason to be depressed or lonely. That way, they can focus on their grades and take care of their babies,” she said.


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