After losing both her parents who were the source of income, life became very difficult for thirteen years old Sipho (Not real name) and her siblings who wanted to further their education but could not due to lack of financial support. She dropped out of school in grade four in 2018 and started helping her grandmother to fend for the family.
“As an orphan, l thought the only way to get out of poverty was either getting a job as a maid or getting married, l was hopeless because of what l was experiencing at that time,” said Sipho.
In March 2021, Sipho’s grandmother Claire Ndovu, learnt about an opportunity to alternative learning for out of school girls and boys in Beitbridge district. The community learning opportunity was shared during a community sensitisation meeting held by Forum for African Women Educator – Zimbabwe (FAWEZI) to introduce the Education in Emergencies project in line with the Zimbabwe HIV Care and Treatment Mechanism (ZHCT-M). This project feeds into the DREAMS and is supported by FH1 360.
Following the sensitisation meeting Ndlovu registered Sipho together with her siblings to attend the Old Nuli community learning centre in ward 15 as the three of them were within the targeted 9 to 14 age range. Sipho was very excited as this was an opportunity to catch up with learning and a chance to make new friends.
“This was one of the best moments in my life, I was motivated and felt like I was given a second chance in life to make myself into whatever I wanted through attending all learning and mentorship sessions,” said Sipho.
Within four weeks of attending learning and mentorship sessions in May, Sipho indicated interest to go back to mainstream school. FAWEZI facilitated her assessment by Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) Beitbridge District personnel. She was referred to enrol at Old Nuli Primary School as a grade 3 learner. MoPSE also facilitated her inclusion into the Basic Education Assistance Model (BEAM) so that her 2021 school fees would be catered for.
“Due to my consistency attending the community learning sessions, l soon realized that l really wanted to go back to formal school and that I was still too young to get married. My peers whom I met during the sessions inspired me, as they were determined to learn despite the mockery from our school going peers,” said Sipho.
Some of the learners who attended the sessions with Sipho have never attended formal school thus attend the writing class whilst the others were screened according to their performance during the screening phrase by FAWEZI and MOPSE despite their ages.
According to the Educator and Mother who run the Old Nuli community learning centre, Sipho was one of their best learners in terms of commitment to her work.
“The program empowered and restored Sipho’s confidence and will to be better every day. She would ask me for more home work and that’s when I decided she was ready to go back to formal school.” Said Voice Muzhambi, the community centre Educator.
Reports from Sipho`s teacher at Old Nuli Primary School show that she is settling in well. Old Nuli Primary School is part of the 35 schools identified and trained by FAWEZI to manage out of school children re-entering school and in Gender Responsive Pedagogy in May this year.
“I am forever grateful to FAWEZI for introducing me to the community learning centre and for the support I got. I will study hard, become a nurse and start supporting other vulnerable girls like myself attain education as this program has done for me.” Said Sipho.
FAWEZI under the project assisted her with stationery that includes, books, pens, pencils, a ruler and a satchel to use at school and her grandmother bought her uniforms from the little money she got from selling her vegetables.
The Education in Emergencies project is a 6-month pilot project running in Matobo and Beitbridge districts. Its aim is to promote continuation of education with a major focus on girls. It is targeting tracking and providing alternative learning to 1000 out of school girls and boys in community learning centres through structured 3 days sessions. The program envisages that once learners are assessed for readiness, they will enrol in schools close to these community learning centres.