In this post, I’m please to begin introducing you to some of Tariro’s newly enrolled students for the 2012 school year. Given our students’ exceptionally high pass rate for O-level exams in 2011, we now have an unprecedented number of nine students enrolled in Advanced, or A-level study! This means we’ve accepted a slightly smaller number of incoming students, with eight new enrollments this year. This brings the total of students enrolled in our sponsorship program to 56. Additionally, six of our past students, who have finished various levels of education ranging from O-levels to university level study, continue to participate regularly in our extra-curricular activities, including our traditional music and dance group.
While the majority of our students have lost one or both parents, Tariro’s sponsorship program accepts both orphaned and vulnerable children, a category widely recognized by the best practices of many international organizations. In today’s post, I introduce you to our student Brenda M., who is one of our few students to experience the stability of having two living parents. Despite this intact nuclear family, however, Brenda’s need for educational sponsorship is overwhelming.
14 years old, Brenda M. is enrolled in Form 1 at Domboramwari High School, in Epworth. Her father is blind, and has never benefited from any type of special services such as vocational training, leaving him unable to perform even basic household chores. As a result, Brenda’s mother is responsible for running the household and caring full-time for Brenda’s father, as well as her younger sister, who is currently enrolled in primary school. Unable to pay rent, Brenda’s parents live with extended family members, in a pattern typical of Zimbabwe’s informal social networks. Her father’s maternal uncle, who works in a shop in Harare, offered them a room in his house, and has generously taken on the entire responsibility for paying bills and covering food for this extended household of relatives .
After finishing grade seven, the last year of primary school in the Zimbabwean school system, Brenda applied for financial assistance with her school fees from the government’s Basic Education Assistance Module, or BEAM, a program designed to provide support for the education and health care of orphaned and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe. However, as the United Nations has observed, this program has been “threatened as economic conditions worsen, and as donors become more reluctant to fund President Robert Mugabe’s regime,” leaving many of Zimbabwe’s needy children without adequate support.
When Brenda learned that she had not been accepted into the BEAM sponsorship program, she was desperate to find another source of assistance to enable her to continue attending school. Given her good grades, her primary school teachers came together in an extraordinary gesture, contributing money from their own small salaries to pay her school fees for the first term of Form 1, allowing her to begin secondary school at Domboramwari. Aware of Brenda’s unsustainable financial situation, the headmaster at Domboramwari immediately contacted Tariro’s program coordinator, Tafadzwa Muzhandu, to recommend her as a candidate for our sponsorship program.
We’re pleased to have such a great new group of incoming students, and we’re even more pleased that so many of our old students are continuing on in the program, during their A-level studies! In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting more profiles of new students, as well as updates on some familiar faces. Thanks again for your ongoing support of Tariro’s programs! We couldn’t do it without your donations and encouragement!