“I am Wasila Yussif, and I am from Aboabo Zongo, a slum community in Kumasi, Ghana. I live with my single mother, Talata as we all call her, and two siblings. Talata is a petty trader that sells sugarcane by the railway in Aboabo. She has no formal education and cannot read or write. But fortunately for me, she understands the value of education and is determined to support me in every way she can.
My family’s financial situation got worse when my father consistently shirked his responsibilities. The situation became unbearable, and divorce ensued. This affected me mentally, physically, emotionally, and academically. My siblings and I started skipping school frequently. I dropped from 1st to 10th position in Junior High School. This shocked most of my teachers, and after learning about my family situation, they decided to help me with day-to-day spending allowance as an incentive only if I could work hard to bring my grades back up.
Talata started a second trade by selling watermelons for additional income to support our education – she sells the watermelon in the morning and sugarcane at night. The income from both trades could barely support us, so I was inclined to help her sell sugarcane. It became a norm for me to go sell every day. When I worked, I came home late every night. Roaming about late at night was a dangerous thing to do in my neighborhood. As a girl who sells at night, men and boys always pressured me into accepting their sexual proposals, which I refused continuously. This pressure from males is prevalent in my vicinity and causes most to drop out of school, become pregnant, or prostitutes. My newfound and unwanted trade job of selling sugarcane made learning difficult for me, however, due to my determination and passion about going to school to become a role model for girls in my community and also to prove that girls are worth educating, I never rested.
I continued selling sugarcane when I started KNUST High School. I joined several sports teams including soccer, hockey and a variety of athletics events and became passionate about the role of sport in my life. I led a couple of these teams and contributed a lot to my school’s sports achievements. Even though I loved these activities, they posed a lot of challenges. I had to wake up before dawn for training, go to class, and then go for hawking sugarcane after school. With determination, hard work and perseverance, I was able to emerge 1st in my class and be the best in the sports teams. Through my sports and academic performance, I gained a one year scholarship, which reduced our financial burden and allowed me to stop selling sugarcane, but instead to enter boarding school to concentrate on my academics. Through these challenges, I managed to stay focused. I learnt to be independent, resilient, supportive and determined.
After high school graduation, a friend told me about the opportunities that Nolbed Foundation provides. I applied and got accepted into their 1-year Pre-College Program. Besides providing us access to college, the program sharpens our leadership skills and presents us opportunities to solve critical problems within our communities. After six months of joining the program, I was accepted into the Smith College Class of 2021 with a full scholarship that covers tuition, room and board. My dream of becoming an Electrical Engineer is getting clearer, and I believe the challenges I endured so far has prepared me well for what’s ahead.”