Upon our arrival in the first school in Benin, we were surrounded by at least 300 students. The headmaster looked uncomfortable and said that it would be difficult to pick out groups for the evaluation as the students were too many. He called one of the boys, who was obviously considered as a leader, for help. The boy – named Abdoulaye for the purpose of this is case study – managed in an amazing efficiency to organize the crowd, to set up two groups for our evaluation activities and to find empty class rooms for the group discussion. Abdoulaye participated himself in one of the groups. His outstanding capacity to express himself during the group work and the creativity of his answers attracted the attention of the youth researchers. The most impressive trait was his strong agency : though humble in his interactions, everything in his actions translated a solid self confidence and leadership. In order to understand how Abdoulaye had been able to develop his capacity, we approached him for a case study.
We met Abdoulaye several times during the evaluation activities in Benin : he participated in a group defining indicators and in another group evaluating the radio program. We saw him during interacting with fellow students and adults at school and also observed him performing in a radio broadcast. Abdoulaye also participated in a non structured interview including the life line exercise . Additional data was gathered during an interview with his chaperon. The activities took place at Abdoulaye’s school and at the radio station in the period from the 28th – 30th May 2010.
Abdoulaye is quite tall for his age. He is simply but well dressed and gives a very mature impression. As described in section 1, he has an outgoing and cordial personality. He was very open-minded, curious and self-confident in the interactions with the evaluation team. He expresses himself with eloquence and charisma. His French skills are far above average.
Abdoulaye does not seem amazed to be selected for a case study. It is obvious that he occupies a special status in the club and is often asked to participate in interviews. That notwithstanding, there is nothing boastful in his manners : Abdoulaye is humble and respectful. Unlike many other children, he does not need time to “warm up” to open up to a new person : he shares joyfully his story. He does not wait for questions, but expresses interest in our activities and engages the interviewer in a discussion. During the radio broadcast, Abdoulaye speaks freely and looks barely at his notes. He supports the other children during their interventions and acts as efficiently and discreet as an adult professional.
Abdoulaye is a 17 year old boy who has grown up in a rural community in the department of Mono in Benin. He has lost both parents when he was quite young and currently lives with his uncle. He started school at the age of five and will graduate from high school (lycee) this year. He is a Muslim by religion.
Abdoulaye has joint the Kids Waves club about 20 months ago. During the individual interview, he described how he became a member : “I listened from time to time to the radio broadcasts of Eto Dodo Deviwo and I found it very interesting. I asked one of the teachers what it was about and he told me who the president of the club was. I approached the boy if I could join the club and was accepted soon later as a member. I did not immediately started with radio talks. I only observed the other kids for some time. I was allowed to take up the microphone after a couple of months and I realized that you need talent and training for implementing a radio show. I practiced a lot. Now it has become routine and I enjoy going on air.”
He has participated in several trainings including those for the VAC project. Within the Kids waves radio club, he occupies the role of the redacteur en chef.
Abdoulaye defined important life events with the help of the life line tool. His life stages are written down as narrated by him.
1st stone : “I lost my mother when I was three years old. I have no memories of her, but I imagine that my life would have been different if she had stayed alive. I don’t know why she died.”
1st flower : “I grew up with my grandmother who was very caring. She carried me around on her back even when I was already too big for that. She used to prepare my favourite meals and give me a lot of time with my friends. It was a good time ; when I think of it, it sometimes seem to me like the paradise on earth.
2nd stone : “I was five years old when I lost my father. After the funeral, my uncle came and took me home with him. He told me later on that my father died of tuberculosis. I don’t have a lot of memories of his death.”
2nd flower : “I was enrolled in school in 1997 when I was five years old. I liked school immediately and worked hard and was rewarded by good grades and recognition from teachers. I always finished best or second best student of the class. I spent a lot of good moments in primary school.”
3rd flower : “I studied hard and succeeded in my exams and was admitted to junior high school (college). My family was proud of me and always provided me with the things I needed for school.”
4th flower : “My school achievements continued : I passed all exams with really good grades. At home, things were going fine, too. My uncles were caring and provided the things I needed such as clothes, text books, pens and so on. Although, they have other children, I never felt neglected ; on the contrary, I often felt that their eyes and pride were fixed on me.”
5th flower : “I applied to participate in the radio club when I was 15 years old. I was very enthusiastic to join and was not disappointed when the activities started. I quickly made friends with the other children and I realized that the club has added a lot of joy to my life : I enjoy spending time with the other children and preparing the radio talks.”
3rd stone : “I had just turned 16 when my grandmother died. I was really sad. She used to be the person who advised me and who was close to me. I don’t know what took her life away, she was old. But I remember my own grief which was difficult to bear.”
9th flower : “I had my nicest experience with the club was last year  around Christmas. We prepared a very interesting radio talk about Christmas food. We did some research on meals consumed over Christmas and gave advice to parents on how to feed their children. We encouraged them to abstain from eating too many good things at once in order to preserve their good health. I was the person who presented the radio journal and I received very good feedback for it. I was very proud.”
“The club gave me the opportunity to be part of the radio team. It is a place for me where I meet other children and we work on radio talks. I have participated in several trainings which were very interesting. The project has been like a source of knowledge, practice and friendship for me. I also think I have gained experience in planning of activities and in helping to make a group work. The process for going on air demands a professional attitude. We need to plan our activities on time, split up the roles, practice and tape the interviews and so on. I am quite good at supporting these different activities and I enjoy going on air myself.”
“My dream is to become an advocate for child rights like a community facilitator. I would like to study law first because I need to learn a lot more myself before I can talk to larger audiences. I would also be interested in becoming a journalist. But again, the objective would remain the same : defending the rights of children. This seems to be a priority for me because the parents themselves do not respect the rights of children and force their offspring into misery with things like forced marriage or maltreatment. It is the parents themselves who abuse the children or who simply don’t care enough by handing over their children to half-relatives without checking on the well being of the children. There are more adults needed who defend the cause of children and this is what I want myself commit to.”
Abdoulaye became a club member because he was interested in learning how to do a radiobroadcast. At the moment he entered the radio club, he was already well grounded in terms of assets, agency and achievements. He had a solid attachment to his caregivers who gave him encouragement and affection (his uncles and his recently deceased grandmother). He had sufficient material support for schooling and possessed an excellent academic record. As an intellectually gifted child with genuine interest in the cause, he easily understood and integrated the training contents of the youth media projects.
He was immediately accepted by his peers and was promoted to one of the leading club positions after a short period of membership. Since Abdoulaye penetrated the inner circle of the club, he has had multiple opportunities to further build up his management, leadership and public speaking skills. The participation in trainings and exchange meetings opened his mind for different realities. Within less than a year, Abdoulaye’s agency blossomed and he has reached a degree of empowerment that allows him to initiate and implement small project independently and to make projects for the future. The youth media work has inspired him to dedicate his professional life to the promotion of child rights.
Abdoulaye’s case study shows how the youth media work can serve as a significant empowerment catalyst for talented children in a short period of time. With little support from chaperons and facilitators, these children manage to excel and are able to make amazing achievements.