|Location||Kasompe, Chingola, Zambia||Respondent|| Rebecca Namfukwe
Even with government-subsidized school fees, it is not easy for most parents or guardians to support children in government schools in Chingola. This is a story of Rebecca Namfukwe, grandmother to Memory, an orphaned grade 8 girl at Kasompe Primary School.
Memory’s parents died when she was a baby. She was then adopted by her grandparents. They have since been sponsoring her education. But with the financial constraints faced by most parents and guardians in Chingola, especially due to high unemployment levels, it hasn’t been easy. Memory’s grandfather is a charcoal burner who produces and sells charcoal for a living. Rebecca also sells vegetables at a local market to make ends meet.
In having such a constrained household income, Rebecca says it has not been easy to save money for Memory’s school; the little income she has is only enough to feed the family.
According to the respondent, most girls in her area drop out of school before the eighth grade, usually due to lack of sponsorship. Rebecca says, some girls have to travel long distances (about 1½ hours walk) to access a school in a town area every day. These girls usually find it hard to continue schooling and drop out.
In 2016, Memory, passed her grade 7 exams, but unfortunately, there was no money for her to report to school, to grade 8, early this year (the start of secondary education). She stayed home for months, despite having received her admission letter. Memory ended up spending most of her time selling charcoal and vegetables at the market instead of being in school.
With the coming of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge project by Cecily’s Fund-Afya Mzuri, funded by PEPFAR, this all too common story is slowly beginning to change. There is now hope for girls like Memory, and also for their parents and guardians.
Rebecca has expressed gratitude for the extended mentorship that the project has offered to the girls. She says that through the Comprehensive Sexual Education and life-skills programs that the girls have undergone, she has already noticed changes in her grandchild’s personal and school life. With a bright smile and enthusiastic voice, Rebecca explained that her granddaughter’s tendency to fool around with friends who were not a good influence on her, has reduced tremendously, therefore giving Memory enough time to study.
Rebecca said that the girl is more careful about who she includes in her circle of friends which, to her, is a sign of improved decision making and assertiveness. Rebecca added that, before the girl was enrolled in the DREAMS project, Memory used to spend a lot of time at the market selling charcoal for the family and playing with friends who had a negative influence. She says that now Memory is back in school, she has a better choice of friends, improving her school performance.
Apart from the positive impact that the project has had on Rebecca’s granddaughter, together with many others, Rebecca says that her own life has also improved. After both Rebecca and Memory attended ‘Fresh-Start’ entrepreneurship skills training in July this year (2017), Rebecca says that she now has better skills to run her own business more efficiently than before. She says that she has improved her saving and accountability skills, giving her hope that she can grow her business in future. This, she says, gives her hope to better her household livelihood in the near future.
Rebecca and her granddaughter will also be amongst the first 450 girls and guardians in the project, to benefit from business equipment
given to them as part of a package of sustainable livelihood and education support. Rebecca says that this means that the young girl’s dream to become a nurse and probably the family’s breadwinner, has been re-lit.
Granddaughter’s dream to become a nurse has been re-lit through getting back into education
She also says that she has already seen a change towards positive attitudes and behaviour of her fellow guardians who attend the ‘REFLECT’ group meetings. Formed early this year as a key element of the programme, REFLECT groups (of 30 parents) aim to improve the perception of the value of education, through adult literacy and proactive participatory identification of solutions to local socio-economic issues.
According to Rebecca, through REFLECT, parents and guardians show a positive attitude to girls’ education as they can better relate the importance of parenting to a child’s education. She said that, already, one could easily see the difference in behaviour between parents who attend REFLECT sessions and those who don’t.
As chairperson of the Parent REFLECT group for Kasompe, and being a good community mobiliser, Rebecca aims to continue supporting the project’s efforts in helping the girls achieve their goals and make their community better.
Rebecca recognizes that, thanks to PEPFAR through DREAMS, not only does she have sponsorship to keep Memory in school, but with improved educational support and entrepreneurship training, she is likely to keep Memory in school beyond the project end.
Quotes from the respondent:
“I wish this project (DREAMS) a long life so that its intended purpose will be realised fully. If the project will not continue, the impact so far made will be compromised.”
World AIDS Day is a chance to reflect on the progress that has been made in the fight against AIDS, and the work that remains to be done. This year, Cecily’s Fund can not only celebrate the ongoing successes of our work providing education access and sexual health information, but also look forward to an exciting new programme which will take our contribution to fighting AIDS to a new level.
"For every year of education, a child’s risk of infection is cut by around 8%."
While the primary focus of Cecily’s Fund has always been on breaking down the barriers to education for orphaned and vulnerable children, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has always underpinned our work. Of the 1.4 million orphans under 18 in Zambia today, almost half are due to AIDS. The tragedy of AIDS in Zambia has created a generation of children who face tremendous challenges in accessing education – but the relationship is not one-way. We know that education not only helps to break the cycle of poverty, but also acts as a social vaccine against HIV: for every year of education, a child’s risk of infection is cut by around 8%.
In addition to helping children to access school, Cecily’s Fund also provides vital health information sessions. Since 2001, we’ve worked with our Zambian partner CHEP (the Copperbelt Health Education Project – also founded in 1988) to train Peer Educators, drawn from children we have helped. Each year, around fifty Peer Educators reach thousands of children with engaging sessions on sexual health, alcohol and drug abuse. They provide children with the tools they need to live healthy lives, and act as fantastic, positive role models. Two-thirds of young people don’t have the information they need about HIV, and our work is helping to close the gap.
"Two-thirds of young people don’t have the information they need about HIV, and our work is helping to close the gap."
This year, Cecily’s Fund has become a part of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge. This exciting initiative is an $85 million investment by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, and ViiV Healthcare. The Challenge’s overall goal is to work towards a 40% reduction in new HIV infections among girls and young women in 10 Sub-Saharan African countries. JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. is the Funds Manager for this award.
Our new programme, supported through the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, focuses on a critical time in girls’ lives: the transition between primary and secondary school. Due to a number of factors, it is at this point that dropping out is most likely. Cecily’s Fund will work with 900 girls to help them stay in school, in order reduce their vulnerability to HIV and early pregnancy, and to help them fulfil their true potential. Together with our Zambian partners, we’ll work to remove the barriers to education; increase family understanding of the value of education; empower mothers and girls to have control over their lives; enhance knowledge of HIV avoidance and tackle poverty.
So much progress has been made in the fight against AIDS, but still around 1,000 girls become infected with HIV each day – addressing this through positive interventions at a crucial time of life is a vital aspect in the global AIDS response. Cecily’s Fund is proud to be able to build on our almost two decades’ of experience and to work through DREAMS to create a generation of girls who are healthy, educated, and better able to leave poverty behind.