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Students Discuss 'Lonely Orphan Girl' –The story of Nellie Bly with Chiagozi Diala

By Chiagozi Diala on Wed, 23/12/2015 - 15:58


The 19th of November 2015 was a special day for me as I took the place of the Author to discuss the book Lonely orphan girl –the story of Nellie Bly with twenty-six students of Government Junior College Maroko and Wahab Folawiyo Junior high School.

 The book which was written by Dana Townsend is based on the life of Elizabeth Jane Cochran. Elizabeth was born into a society that discouraged career growth of women. Women could only become teachers, nannies and cleaners. Born into a family of eight children, her father died when she was 6years of age, which made things really difficult for her family as her mother’s income could not sustain them. She struggled most of her life to earn a living because women had few choices of job. She then did something that her society did not encourage. She started out as a writer for a newspaper company and then grew to become America’s most famous female journalist.

The session started at 10:05am with opening prayer led by Blessing Abel of Wahab Folawiyo Junior High School. The students introduced themselves –telling us their names, schools, classes, ages and favourite meals. I was surprised to hear some students mention eba and soup because I remember at their ages, I was always forced to eat eba and soup. I then asked the students who the character Nellie Bly was and someone stood up and said ‘she was a determined person’ another said ‘she was a courageous person’.  I then asked the students series of questions from the book and they answered correctly. I tried to relate some part of the book to our Nigerian society by asking the female students what their reaction would be if there was a law in Nigeria that says women could not become professionals but cleaners, cooks, nannies or any menial job and they all squeezed their faces in protest. A female student stood up to say that her destiny cannot be chosen for her and that she has an ambition which she has to fulfil. I then read out my favourite part of the book to the hearing of the students. My favourite part of the book talked about how Nellie Bly challenged her employer to send her on a trip which he strongly believed was too dangerous for a woman. It was a trip around the world which he said she couldn’t do in fewer than 80days but when she was put to the test, she completed it in 72days 6hours and 11minutes. With this, I encouraged the students to always be determined and have a positive attitude towards life.

The students were taken on a tour of the library by the chief librarian during which they borrowed their first books from the library. Children are usually asked to write a continuation of the book they read and give it a different ending. Reading carefully through the students’ continuation of the book, I was able to select three top stories written by Rebecca Okeleye, Abubakar Ramot and James Jumai. Rebecca Okeleye, whose story was awarded the best amongst the twenty six participating students, is a JSS 2 female student of Government Junior College Maroko. An edited version of Rebecca’s continuation goes thus:

Based on her world record, Nellie wrote about her journey around the world. She wrote on different cultures and traditions. One of her articles titled “beggars on the streets” was based on the suffering and poverty that existed in Africa. Her readers were moved with pity and philanthropist started to travel to Africa to save the situation. Nellie in another article she publicised wrote about the level of illiteracy in most countries. She tried to encourage the victims not to rely on what the society has for them but to strive to be educated. Using her story as an example, she was able to convince many people to be self-educated. Her articles made her readers feel like they had travelled round the world.  

She encouraged many women to break out of their shells and become professionals with better paid jobs. Women referred to her as their hero.

She was given an award along-side the second and third positions. The students were excited as they received their free library cards. They posed for the camera with their books in their hands. Finally, the session came to a close as Blessing Matthew; a female student of Government Junior College gave a warm vote of thanks.

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