Last year I wrote in detail the step by step process we take in recruiting our students and this year I want to share that journey again but more from another point of view. This is my personal view! I am incredibly proud to walk this journey with Mark (my husband) – he has such a passion for education in Zimbabwe and wants to see lives changed. He planted this seed in my heart years ago and I’m so so thankful we can walk this road together.
So this is from the point of view of me, one of the people who carries the weight of deciding which students will get a Makomborero scholarship, and who won’t. What is so glaringly obvious through this whole process is the belief that runs so deep in Zimbabwe – that the only way out of poverty is through education! We have seen a nation become obsessed with degrees, obtaining a degree, then a masters degree etc (for those who can afford) and often the majority of jobs that are available require very high qualifications (master degrees). It is like in many senses education is the blood that flows through us.
What we witness through the recruitment process is the continual laying down of lives, for the incredible privilege that education is. Families will sacrifice so so much to put a child through school. Their hopes, their dreams, their futures hang on the outcome of the education of their children. The sacrifice and cost can be huge! And I think that is what is so surprising through all of this – that education really is a privilege. In a country where free education does not exist, where the cheapest senior school fee of $30 is often unobtainable for the vast majority of people, where unemployment runs in the 90%, the sacrifices a family has to make for a child to go to school, to pay examination fees, buy uniforms, is literally something that pushes families to the edge of survival.
For societies that have access to education – free and in abundance, where you can dream of being anything and pursue that with such passion, where education is a right and not a privilege – it is hard to even begin to comprehend this journey of education in Zimbabwe.
The inspiring stories of survival we heard:
Child headed homes where the older sibling (who is applying to Makomborero for a scholarship) works as a cleaner and gardener in his siblings’ junior school to pay for their fees. Headteachers who think out the box to try and figure out how they can help this family, when funds and resources are so limited for them too.
A child living with his granny who sells vegetables on the side of the road to help them put a little food on the table and pay for their fees where she can. He is an orphan. After school each day he collects littered water bottles and visits a food factory and manages to convince them to give him their old, used cooking oil. He takes them home, washes the bottles he has found and bottles the cooking oil and sells it to help put food on the table and pay towards his education.
Families who once could afford to educate their children but due to the economic situation have lost their jobs and have literally sold every asset they own, including beds, etc to educate their children.
Headteachers who have allowed students into school to finish their O’levels because they can see how bright the child is and want to give them a chance – even if they haven’t paid school fees for over a year. Many teachers chipping together from their very small salaries (roughly US$500 per month) to pay examination fees for these students.
So as you can imagine, the more stories we hear, and the more students we meet during the testing process, the heavier the weight of our decision weighs on our shoulders. I often weep, deep belly sobs during this time – my heart breaks for the very little that we can do. My mother instinct kicks in and I want to rescue all. I know I can’t but I get a glimpse that these are all precious people, all who deserve something more, a leg up so to speak but we can only impact a few. The pain I feel at these times can feel so physical and overwhelming. I love how our own children ask to hear the stories, seeing their hearts of compassion towards the desperate plight of so many, who find themselves unemployed and fighting for survival.
My husband so graciously reminds me what we feel called to, that a drip is better than nothing and so we continue. The heart breaking process of letting some go, wishing we could do more and then inviting a few to have their lives changed forever. These students open their homes up to us, welcome us in to catch a glimpse into their lives. There are so many incredible families we visit, families pulling together to put one child through school, such community, survival, and I leave those homes inspired for all that I have, the privilege I have experienced, not for a minute taken for granted, feeling at times that this Makomborero Machine is too big for us to carry and the financial burden of whether we will raise enough money huge – but so so worth it.
We are seeing lives changed and families changed! The fruit is beginning to show after 5 years and my heart wells up with such deep joy. Also incredible pride of our students and their families and the journeys they have walked!
So this recruitment process is heartbreakingly hard, but I will continue to do it because I know lives are changed. Yes I wish we could so do more but this drop is worth it! The brokenness I experienced after the recruitment process this year was nothing like I have experienced before, it makes me wary for the next time but I keep my eyes fixed on something bigger than this earth can offer and I put one foot in front of the other – finding my inspiration to continue from those who have faced so much more than I will ever.
Written by: Laura Albertyn