Well we have our final 8 – 4th intake. What a process – starting in September 2013 and finishing a few days ago. We have 8 wonderful students, whose lives will be radically changed. We will post another blog with information on each of them soon.
Why I wanted to write this? I suppose through this process there is a lot your mind mulls over and writing it down will bring closure and possibly also give you, our lovely supporters, a glimpse into the process!
We start with 500 student applications from roughly 70 township schools surrounding Harare and beyond. We then spend a day with a team working through all the forms and get down to 140 forms. These 140 students were then invited to our 1st week of testing – a week of tests designed to examine them academically and for raw talent – but not taking English proficiency much into account. I find this process so hard to watch – 140 students with incredibly heart wrenching stories – all so deserving. It is also a week seeing our Makomborero Family pull together – our current students volunteering their time to help administer tests, help with data input, serve refreshments etc. It is a great opportunity for us to all work together – excited about the end goal!
We then had a few days of data analysis / re-reading of applications and getting down to 40 students. Week 2 is a more subject specific week consisting of intense lessons with different subject specialist teachers. These lessons are often very different to what they have experienced before – giving them a refreshing and enjoyable experience but also testing them too. Mark also then interviews each student individually, finding out more details of their homes, families and lives – an emotionally draining process that he would share with me each evening. Stories that leave you wrung out.
We then start the very hard process of getting to our 8. So many factors come into play – background, academic ability, whether they will integrate well into their new lives, etc. We got down to 11 – 11 incredible students whose families we would now meet.
Now this is my favourite part of the process – meeting the families! It is also the most difficult part as three of those students we would not be able to take. We see things that break our hearts but also make us so proud – so proud of these forgotten heroes in this country. These parents / guardians have given everything to get these kids this far. They have so much to be proud of amongst all the suffering and heartache. Families who continue to rise above daily challenges of survival. It was a long tiring day which started with us leaving the house at 6am and returning at 8.30pm, driving 380km, into townships and rural areas. We will share each student’s story with you shortly! Mrs Banga, Mark and I were overcome with emotion at times – pride, sadness, etc. I think the thing that we all felt on our return was the overwhelming sense of what we have – a bed we don’t share with anyone (other than my husband), our children have their own beds, we have a home to live in that is ours and is big, we have food every day, we have a job that pays the bills, we can educate our children, we have far fewer stresses of survival, we have water, we have electricity etc. One thing that was so true for many of these families was the deep joy in many of these homes – families who live in one room but are joyful for what they have. They see the true meaning of family, love, commitment, sacrifice. We left inspired and thankful for the things we take for granted.
These students’ lives are not changed by us academically!! These students are used to fighting for their education, so would probably achieve top grades without this scholarship. What this scholarship offers them is: a stress free 2 years of not worrying about paying fees, being sent home for no fee payment, the family having to decide over food or education, access to unbelievable resources that will broaden their understanding of what they are studying, being exposed to co-curricular activities that they never had to do – helping them become team players and risk takers. They will live in another loving family that loves them for who they are – unconditional love! They will eat and sleep well in warm beds with full bellies. They will learn to interact with students from vastly different backgrounds, making them so adaptable in later life, taking the good of the new culture they are surrounded by and imparting the good of their culture!! Giving them opportunities and possibilities for their tertiary education that they would never have had. So this scholarship is so much more than just academics – it is about the heart, nurturing and moulding these people into people who believe they are the future of Zimbabwe!
One thing that has become more and more desperate over the past 4 years of doing this is the crisis of woman in education. The drop-out rate in form 2 and 3 (year 9 and year 10) is huge – in a class that started with equal numbers of boys and girls in form 1 is, by form 3, a class of say only 3 girls out of 40 in it! This is so alarming and very sad. This is a symptom of the culture towards woman – something the society had been subconsciously feeding woman for generations. We have found a few schools that break this norm and what we have seen is that they have very strong female role models within the school – ladies who inspire the girls and keep drumming into them that woman can have the same opportunities as men. The society that they are growing up in tells them that men are more clever, men earn bigger salaries, men are the leaders, influencers etc. Many of these girls drop out to get married, are pregnant or finances for education are deferred to a boy in the family. They know enough to get them by so there is no need for them to carry on. So the girls who make it to our testing break the norm and have really had to fight to get there – ridiculed by other girls, and suffered external pressure to have boyfriends and settle down. But these girls come from families who believe that girls have a future. This is something so hard to explain to people when they look at our ratios in the house!
So, what can Makomborero Zimbabwe do to help this crisis in our nation? Well we can start small – each girl – past and present Makomborero Zimbabwe students, has been and will be asked to identify girls who are doing well academically at the end of Primary school and in the first year of high school. Our girls will then come along side these girls – mentoring them, inspiring them, encouraging them and helping them with their studies. We know it is a very small start but it is something and who knows where it could lead to!!! So come on Makomborero ladies – you are an inspiration to the younger generation of Zimbabwean ladies – you already have so much to give them!!
So welcome to our 8 – David, Michael, Sikho, Prince, Lawrence, Nicole, Yeukai and Joseph. You all deserve this opportunity. Embrace it and make the most of these two short years with us. We look forward to getting to know you and loving you as one of our Makomborero family.
Written by: Laura Albertyn