“Whatever you give to a woman, she manages it very well. And when we say women, we are talking about the right-thinking ones.”
Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Hajiya Samira Balarabe, a lawyer, is the first female secretary of the Postgraduate School, Kaduna State University (KASU). An indigene of Kaduna, she is a role model and girl-child education advocate.
What was your upbringing like?
I was born and brought up in the North, Kaduna City, to be precise. I was raised in a very responsible home where both western and religious education were compulsory, a home where humility was the key thing and you had to tolerate all kinds of people destiny may bring your path in life.
How do you balance your roles as mother, wife, career woman and secretary of the PG school?
Managing all these responsibilities is not something that is too hectic. It depends on how organised one is.
When you know when to do what you need to do and pray to God for direction, then it will not be difficult as such to manage all you have to do. You just need to be prudent with time; leave out what is unnecessary and do that which is necessary.
I learnt a lot from my mother, who is also a civil servant. In fact, she will be retiring in a few months time. So, I’m doing all I’m doing the way I saw her doing it.
As a secretary of the PG School in KASU, how are you coping with influx of mature students, especially aggressive ones?
I have learnt to take anybody that comes my way the way they are, right from my childhood. There is this thing my father always told us as children: “You don’t give what you don’t have.” He kept reminding us about the good training he had been able to provide us with, except we decide to change as we grow.
So, anytime I’m confronted with any issue, especially men that come here and say all manner of things to me (some will say you are just like my child or like my wife and all that), I just let them behave the way they want to behave without picking offence because, deep inside me, I know that is the way they are. And like I said, that shows what they have and since I don’t have that, I can’t give it back to them the way they give me. So, I try to give them back my best and I treat cases individually.
What are your happiest and saddest moments so far in the course of discharging your responsibility?
You know, naturally, life is a combination of both good and bad moments. But as a civil servant, my happiest moment was when I was transferred from the registry to the PG School. Not at the point of posting but when I started work because there were a lot of activities, which involved IQ test for me; activities that would make you remain calm to be able to discharge your responsibilities. I refer to that as my happiest moment because it helped me to know I could handle some situations very well. I love challenges. Sad moments, I can’t recall one, except when a man came here to threaten me very seriously. But then, I saw his action as who he was.
You were once a girl-child and today you are a role model due to your academic environment. In Nigeria today, in the North, to be specific, there are name of hawking while their mates are in school. What do you think can be done to have more girls in school?
To me, it is a grassroots thing. Let me give a hypothesis: In my area, that is, Malali, in Kaduna North Local Government, in my street, for example, if I find out that some children are not going to school, as a good neighbour, I should find out why it is so. One of the reasons I have found out is the issue of finance. However, where that is not the case, I try to give them explanations using myself as case study and, of course, they see you and wish their children can be like you.
So, if all of us that have the little resources can sponsor just a child at our levels, some to primary school, some to secondary school and some to higher institution, by the time a child is able to go through primary school and see its sweetness, such a child would want to continue.
This is my personal opinion because this is what I do in my community service. I started with my domestic staff who has been working with me for the past five years. He’s here in KASU studying Chemistry. I have two of them like that.
Apart from that, there is this girl I always see hawking on my way to office. Then I noticed that she was always picking paper from refuse bin by the roadside. One day, I stopped and asked her why she was always picking papers from the refuse bin and she told me she loved to read.
I asked her whether she had ever been to school and she said she dropped out in Primary 3. She said her father ran away so she had to hawk to earn a living for her family. That was how I picked her up and went to see her mother. I told her that I would like to send the girl back to school. I gave the mother the opportunity to find out about me and, if she’s convinced, she should get back to me.
As I speak, the girl attends the same school my children attend. In fact, she is in the same class with my daughter, JSS 1. So as long as she’s ready to study up to higher institution, I will sponsor her, by the grace of God.
But some parents prefer sending their male children to school at the expense of the girls because of the belief that any education a girl child has will only be useful to her husband?
To me, that is complete a no-no situation. I don’t believe in it.
There is a popular saying that when you educate a woman you educate a nation. Now, when your children come back from school with their homework, it is the mother, in most cases, that will be available to guide them in their homework. So, imagine if she’s not educated, what is going to happen? I am an advocate of girl child education anywhere, anytime. I don’t see age as a barrier for women to get educated.
Education should not be one-sided. Anytime you get western education, get religious education too because having both will make you a complete human being.
There is a saying that women are better managers, to what extent do you agree with this?
Yes, they are, because I am a woman. Even by nature, we are better managers. For example, only a woman will manage a home together with children and the husband, the domestic workers, if any, and visitors. That is innate quality. Whatever you give to a woman, she manages it very well. And when we say women, we are talking about the right-thinking ones.
Are you nurturing any political ambition sooner or later?
No. I don’t have any political ambition. But then, politics is at different levels and the important thing is to represent people well, since all of us cannot be governor, president or lawmaker. It does not necessarily mean contesting elective position before you can be involved in politics. You can give workable advice to those that are there as it were.
How do you think women can leverage on social media to enhance their productivity and not the other way round as we see it today?
First of all, life is all about time management. When you know how to manage your time very well, then you be at advantage. If you are a social media person and you possibly belong to several groups, all you need to do is to allocate time to check your messages based on your priority. Let say for example, you open your WhatsApp and saw hundreds of messages, what you will likely do is to look at the most important ones within your time frame and discard the junks. So, if you join sensible groups, it will help you grow in knowledge because this the fastest way of sharing information today.
Can you share some of what have helped you to come this far?
The first thing is putting God first. Then, listen to and emulate your parents in good deeds. I have promised myself that, until I die, I will never stop encouraging females. But while doing that, the matter of approach matters. There was a case here; a female lecturer met a lady who was not properly dressed and she called and said, “Do you think this is the proper way to dress?” The lady responded, “Is it your business or do you want me to slap you?”
But in my own case, when I see them not properly dressed, I only tell them to keep the dress for party politely. I have someone who supplies me tops and bottoms wears, which I purchase and keep in my office.
So, if I see any students who dresses anyhow, I only invite them to my office and ask them to check and make their choice and ask them to keep the other one for the party days. I sometimes snap them after they change. They then end up becoming my friends. I love doing that and feel fulfilled anytime I am able to help anyone.