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Meet Fatima, 14-year-old Kano female tiler

Fatima Saqibu Abubakar is a 14-year-old resident of Ja’en quarters in Kumbutso Local Government Area of Kano State. Fatima works as a tiler in Kano,…

Fatima Saqibu Abubakar is a 14-year-old resident of Ja’en quarters in Kumbutso Local Government Area of Kano State. Fatima works as a tiler in Kano, a craft known to be male-dominated. In this interview, she tells Daily Trust how she learnt the work from her father a few years ago and also combines it with her education.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Fatima Saqibu Abubakar. I am 14 years old. I live at Ja’en area in Kumbutso Local Government Area of Kano State, I started my primary school education in 2013 and I am now in secondary school (SS1).

When did you start tiling?

I started a few years ago; when I was in junior secondary school. I see it as very beneficial for me as a girl to learn this work so that by the time I grow up, I will not be idle and jobless.

You see, tiling is mostly seen as a craft for men. So, if a lady can learn and master it, she will obviously become a source of inspiration for other girls to acquire a skill for a living.

Where did you learn the work and how did you start?

Fortunately for me, my father is a tiler. So, I learnt the tiling work from him. Whenever he is working in the neighbourhood, I visit him. So, from there, I watched him carefully to see how the arrangement of the tile was done. That was how I began to learn.

As time went by, I asked him to give me a chance to try. He was surprised but all the same, he gave me the chance. He mixed the cement for me and to his surprise, I did very well. Henceforth, I started working gradually with pieces of tiles, sometimes at home. Some neighbours got to know about it and began to ask for my service.

So, you learnt from your father?

Yes, I used to watch him while he was working. That was how I got inspired and then learnt the work from him.

Tiling involves mixing cement and sometimes sand. How do you do that when you come to work?

It is my father that helps me with that, sometimes he hires a labourer for me to take care of that. So, all I have to do is to do the design and the arrangements and also lay down the tiles.

So how much do you charge per metre?

My father does the bargain for me since he knows much about the work. Most times, we work together.

How does this work support you financially?

Well, the money I earn is used for our family activities and upkeep. So, the work helps me and my family, and has also changed the course of my life.

What is the level of patronage? Do you travel outside your locality or even outside Kano to work?

No, I only work within our locality. I have never travelled outside Kano. People in this area know about me and they often call me to work for them. 

How do you combine this work with study?

I was a student when I started this work and I am still a student. During school hours, you will find me at school. It is only after the school hours that I engage in the work. That is how I combine the work with school.

Where do you see yourself in the future as a tiler?

By God’s grace, I will continue to work as a tiler and employ others, especially ladies, so that younger girls can easily look up to us. The housewives could be at ease seeing us working in their homes without having to vacate their houses as is the case when men tilers work in some homes.

Are you going to continue working as a tiler after you graduate or do you want to switch to something else?

Even after graduation, I want to continue with my work as a tiler because it is beneficial to me. And if I get the support I need, I would want to further my studies. I want to become a medical doctor in order to assist our society and humanity at large, especially women.

What message do you have for other children and their parents?

My message to other children is to try and learn a skill so that they can become self-reliant and become financially independent as adults.

And to the parents, they should be assisting their children and boost their confidence whenever they develop a passion in any field because that will help them [children] to unleash their potentials.