Introducing our new students!

Peggy Samhaka, Highfield High 1 Senior Woman, with two of Tariro's new students, Audrey (left) and Rumbidzai (right)

In my last post from Zimbabwe, I’m happy to report that Tariro has finished our outreach for 2010, and have enrolled 13 new students in our program.  These include 7 new students at Highfield High 1, 5 new students at Domboramwari secondary school in Epworth, and Mai Chipira’s daughter Ashleen.

At each school, our outreach efforts were conducted by working with the Senior Woman, a position of great responsibility in the Zimbabwean school system.  Each school’s Senior Woman works closely with the school’s headmaster or headmistress.  This position is equivalent to a dean of students position in the US, and the Senior Woman is responsible for guidance counseling and student welfare for all students enrolled in her school.  In addition, she works closely with female students to address their particular needs.

Working with Tariro, the Senior Women at Highfield High 1 and Domboramwari compiled lists of orphaned students in need of sponsorship.  We used a combination of academic potential and achievement, as well as extremely vulnerability, to select students for sponsorship.   All of our new students were in immediate danger of being turned away at school for non-payment of fees, and had been attending school on the basis of a letter issued by their Senior Women stating that they were being considered for sponsorship.  Had it not been for Tariro’s sponsorship, all of these students would have been unable to keep attending school.  Many of them have previously missed entire terms at school because of their inability to pay fees.  Despite this hardship, however, all of these students are maintaining passing grades in their classes.

We are even aware of one student who had been sneaking into school, using a receipt from one of her friends whose family was able to pay her school fees.  Discovered several times by the school’s administration, she persisted in sneaking into school repeatedly over the past term, before Tariro stepped in with sponsorship for her.  I love that story… a girl who is dedicated enough to be sneaking into school even when she can’t pay her fees is exactly the kind of student I’m happy to be helping!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting regular profiles of our new students so that you can get acquainted with some of the new faces in our program.  We are looking for individual sponsors for each of these new student, so if you are interested in learning more about a particular girl, or stepping up to sponsor her, please let me know!

Gillian, one of Tariro's new students at Highfield High 1

Gillian is currently enrolled in Form 1, her first year of high school studies, at Highfield High 1.  Gillian’s brother also attends Highfield High 1, where he is currently finishing his O level studies.  From an exceptionally bright family, her two older sisters received prestigious Econet scholarships for their A level and university studies.  We have high hopes that Gillian will also be a good candidate for a scholarship for higher level education, and would love to see her go to University in the next five or six years!

Gillian’s father was a professional photographer until he passed away last month after a short illness.  Gillian’s mother is unemployed, and found herself suddenly responsible for covering all of the family’s expenses, including not only daily living expenses, but also her brother’s school fees, as well as transport expenses for her sisters, whose scholarships do not cover this expense.  From a stable home situation, Gillian suddenly found herself in a situation of extreme vulnerability, and was in immediate danger of dropping out of school.

As a grassroots organization, Tariro benefits from close community relationships.  Our sponsorship of Gillian is one example of how the web of our social networks improves our ability to work effectively within vulnerable communities like Highfields.   Gillian is the only student at Highfield High 1 who was not referred to us directly by the Senior Woman at the school.  In this case, Gillian’s family came to the attention of Tariro through one of Gillian’s aunts, Patience Chaitezvi, who is a respected mbira player, and the person who introduced us to Peggy Samhaka, the guidance counselor who helped us identify the new students we are sponsoring this year.  When Patience explained Gillian’s situation, it was immediately obviously to us that she was an excellent candidate for sponsorship, and we encouraged her to apply for our program before we had begun discussing other candidates with Mrs. Samhaka.  Our relationship with Patience thus had the double benefit of helping us identify one student in need in her own extended family, as well as enabling us to build the community relationships we needed at Highfield High 1 to conduct more general outreach, identifying six other students for sponsorship.

In addition to sponsorship through Tariro, Gillian’s family is also receiving a one-time grant of financial support from donations made by members of the Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center in Eugene, OR, to assist them in covering basic living costs while her mother tries to plan for their future.  Tariro has a close relationship with Kutsinhira, and has received generous donations from Kutsinhira’s Community Development Fund to support our programs in the past.  Today, we are happy to be working side by side Kutsinhira to assist Gillian’s family.

Finally, we are especially happy to be sponsoring Gillian as she is herself a talented mbira player, and will make a wonderful addition to our traditional music and dance ensemble.  We hope that she may even be able to assist us to add an mbira component to the program.

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