The sound of water gushing, gushing, gushing filled the air as they scooped it up, children and women alike, in the big water container, just as it was customary in every household.

A young girl, barely eleven years old, stood by the water tap, directing the flow of water into two buckets, her fingers moving swiftly. Once they were filled, they carried them inside the house.

One of the houseboys went in with the water, and as they washed their bodies, the water splashed everywhere, with each splash cascading into the container they were fetching water from. The interior of the house they lived in was flooded with water, mixed with cement dust and cement debris. There were empty detergent cans lying around, amidst the puddles of water.

Inna, the youngest girl, emerged from inside the house, her face flushed with exhaustion, having swept the house like she would do every day. There were other children in the house with her—Hafsat, Fatima, Mariya, and Abdul—whom they referred to as ‘little Abdul’ because he was named after their father.

Well, today, Hafsat was tasked with fetching water all day long. Hmmm, Inna, doing household chores is tough. Fadima, I swear, the walls of their house are crumbling. She said, “Atabau, we’ll need to fill twenty drums of water, so we have to hurry. We’ve been fetching water from a distant well or a dam. Fadima sighed inside the house, with only one small basin of water, she was struggling, trying to keep up with the demand.

Inna, the youngest girl, empathized with her. “Come on, Fadima, this basin is too heavy for you, really. And this one is almost overflowing. Why did you bring it here? Fadima replied from outside, holding a large pot of water, visibly tired, but determined to keep going.

Inna returned the basin to her and fetched a bucket of water. Inna poured water into the drums, each one now three-quarters full. Then she joined her siblings, carrying a wooden bucket filled with water for their bath.

Despite their young age and lack of religious education, they never missed their prayers. No one helped them, only Allah, and sometimes their mother. She would call them to pray, and as they prayed, she would sprinkle them with water, pretending it was rainwater, while they recited their prayers.

Today, their school session was cut short, so they rushed off to their Islamic school, as their teacher had requested.

At the Islamic school, some girls stayed back while others went out to the field to fetch water, chatting animatedly. Hafsat and her friends gathered around, talking to the girls, before heading off. Now, this girl, is she really a teacher, Ramatu asked, pointing at one of the girls? She said, “Gajiye, our eldest sister, is a trained teacher, you know. But ever since our little brother joined us, we’ve all had to stay home to help. She’s supposed to be the one teaching, but she’s busy with household chores. That’s why I think she’ll marry off her daughters early, to lessen the burden on her. I mean, she’s the one taking care of our little brother, and now she has to take care of him, too. So, all of her daughters are getting older, but they’re still at home, caring for their brother. She’s a mother to him, not a sister. She’s their mother, their father.”

The youngest girl, Inna, nodded in agreement, content with her fate, trusting in Allah and whatever destiny He had in store for her. This made her impervious to the trials of the world, knowing that everything they eat, drink, or wear was provided by Allah and Him alone.

Despite their worldly knowledge, they remained steadfast in their faith, even if they couldn’t read or write. However, the villagers saw her as an old woman, worried that she would keep her daughters from getting an education. They didn’t know what to do with her, considering that she had no sons to continue the family name.

GAJIYE is now the one in charge, she’s the one taking care of things. The children of the house are no longer young, and there’s no one to give them a hand, no one to provide for them. So, she’ll continue to teach them herself, with whatever means she has, at home.

Tomorrow, I must return to Kano, to Hajia’s place, and see how many children she has. If I see any of them among her children, especially among her daughters, then I’ll know what I have to do.

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