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Years ago, I knew a girl who was very smart. Not too long ago, I wondered what she had ended up doing and asked about…

Years ago, I knew a girl who was very smart. Not too long ago, I wondered what she had ended up doing and asked about her. Apparently, she made good grades in secondary school, and more than anything else, she wanted to be an accountant. Her parents were poor—her father was a bus driver, and her mother sold food, but they believed in the power of education to free their daughter from poverty. Unfortunately, they couldn’t afford to send her to school despite the fact that she got admitted into a university for her course of choice on her first try. She retook the exams to buy time. Again, she got into a different university for accountancy, but her parents’ financial situation remained the same. So when an older, relatively wealthy man turned up and promised to pay her fees in exchange for marriage, she accepted the offer with the encouragement of her parents. The man got her pregnant, and as far as I know, he never did send her to school.

Recently on Twitter, someone shared a tuition-for-marriage story. In this story, however, the young woman was murdered by the man to whom she was betrothed. The man had paid her school fees in exchange for marriage, but she graduated and changed her mind. It was shocking to me to see young people supporting the killer (even if not his crime) because the woman reneged on their deal.

First of all, marriage isn’t something one should be forced into, deal or no deal. You presumably want to sleep with and raise a family with the person you’re marrying. How do you do that with someone who’s only with you because of a deal? You paid her school fees, so what? Ask for your money back.

Speaking of which, the idea of using the payment of school fees to lure vulnerable young women into marriage is sick. Often, as someone pointed out, these deals are not even made with the to-be wives but with their parents. It isn’t that the parents don’t love their children, but rather that these parents are looking for ways to ensure that their daughters pursue their dreams of further education. It is misguided, but it is love nevertheless.

It takes a lot of strength for poor parents who want the best for their daughters not to be tempted by such ‘generous’ offers. Or for the young women themselves even to resist. We know how consuming dreams can be. Plus, like some folks noted on Twitter, these men are consistent. They target these girls and bombard them (and their families) with their offers. I imagine the girl I mentioned earlier, who found herself stuck between a rock and a hard place, giving in to what appeared to be the only viable option if she was to have a chance of fulfilling her dream. Faced with constantly taking exams and passing them but with no hope of ever going to university, and to her a man who wants marriage in exchange for paying for her to live her dreams, it might have seemed to her like a small sacrifice to choose the man. Unfortunately, she lost out both ways to a vile man who had no intention at all of letting her get an education. He wanted both herself and her dream. Unable to fend for herself, and now with more children, she has stayed on in a marriage with a very faulty foundation.

It is obvious that the way some of us think of marriage and relationships has to change. People do not owe you love, or marriage, or their hearts. It doesn’t matter how much you offer them; these are not things that can be bought. Period.

It’s also obvious that there’s a need for more options to be given to our youth, particularly our young women, if we are ever to make marriage-in-exchange-for-tuition unattractive. Perhaps communities could offer scholarships to their bright students from poor families. Perhaps the government could implement laws and regulations that protect young girls from exploitation. Perhaps mentorship programmes, and an awareness of them could help.

And as for the predatory older men with some money who use their money to trap young girls into marriages, may they get what they deserve.


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