Sharon Okpoe wasn’t born with a silver spoon or nurtured to become an engineer, a lawyer, or a doctor.

The tall 17-year-old girl with a friendly face is from Lagos, Nigeria—specifically its infamous Makoko slum, where shacks built on stilts sit above dark, pungent water. Her father is a fisherman, and her mother ekes out a living selling roasted fish. In Makoko, teenagers—especially girls like Okpoe—have few career choices or opportunities for advancement.

In Nigeria’s schools,...

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