In my last post, I discussed Tariro’s strength in reintegrating students who have been out of school for extended periods due to the financial hardships facing their families, many of whom are caring for multiple orphans. Today, I’d like to profile one student whose story illustrates the many challenges that face orphaned girls seeking to attend secondary school in Zimbabwe.
This student is Tinotenda B.,who had been forced to drop out of school almost two years ago, after losing her parents. She currently lives with an uncle in Glen Norah, who is unemployed and unable to pay for her education. Tinotenda had heard about Tariro from a friend, and she came to our offices to get more information, passionately exclaiming that school was the only important thing in her life. Despite the fact that we were not in recruiting mode at the time, Tinotenda showed incredible determination and persistence, convincing our program coordinator Tafadzwa to enroll her in Tariro before our normal, end-of-year recruitment season.
Hope and determination
Every time Tinotenda appeared in our office, she wore the same dress, which she admitted was the only one she owned. Upon conducting a home visit to assess her living situation, however, Tafadzwa discovered that despite owning only a single dress, Tinotenda had managed to amass a collection of old school uniforms from friends who attended different schools. As she explained, she knew that once she found a sponsor, she would want to immediately begin attending school, without having to worry about buying uniforms. As our program coordinator Tafadzwa relates, “I was surprised at her determination and hopefulness when she had been out of school for two years.”
Obstacles to enrollment and the need for advocacy
After accepting Tinotenda within Tariro’s educational sponsorship program, however, we had to conduct intensive community advocacy in order to find her a place in school. Given the long period of time she had spent without attending school, she was unable to secure the transfer letter normally required for new enrollments at the government public schools in her neighborhood. Our program coordinator visited several area schools, yet was unable to find one willing to give Tinotenda a place, because there was no evidence that she had ever attended school previously.
To overcome this obstacle to her enrollment, Tinotenda said she was willing to be placed in an entry level class, known as Form 1. Finally, after several extended discussions with local headmasters, our program coordinator managed to convince the headmaster at Glen Norah High 1 to accept Tinotenda. Because Glen Norah High 1 was the only school willing to accept Tinotenda, she must walk an hour to get to school everyday, yet she has not missed a day since she was admitted last term. Tinotenda wore one of her borrowed uniforms for a term, until Tariro purchased a new uniform for her to use.
A child is a cloth…
Tinotenda’s success in re-enrolling in secondary school after such a long absence was made possible through a combination of her own perseverance and dedication, as well as the intensive advocacy efforts exerted by our program coordinator, Tafadzwa. In turn, Tariro’s ability to sustain this type of grassroots advocacy is made possible by all of the many donors who contribute to our programs, enabling us to pay school fees and related expenses for Tinotenda and almost 60 other girls.
As a Shona proverb says, “A child is a cloth, which is held by everyone.” On behalf of Tinotenda and all of us at Tariro, thank you for being part of the community of support holding up our girls!