|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 Mandy, an orphaned grade 8 girl at Kasompe Primary School.
Mandy’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. Mandy’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 Mandy’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, Mandy, 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. Mandy 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 Mandy, 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 Mandy 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, Mandy 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 Mandy 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 Mandy 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 Mandy in school, but with improved educational support and entrepreneurship training, she is likely to keep Mandy 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.”