It’s 2005 and I’m sitting on a woven mat outside my village home, sipping tea as young teenagers dressed in school uniform (although often barefoot) pass along the dusty red track that leads to St Peter’s Secondary School. We call out greetings to each other as they pass, their energy and enthusiasm catching on. I can’t help but think of myself, only a year earlier at school in Australia, and recall moaning as I rolled out of bed in the mornings. I used to think about school as a compulsory annoyance, something to get out the way so I could then go explore the world! Comparatively, here the youth are hungry to learn, almost skipping to school with joy.
These thoughts linger as I enjoy the last of my tea. I’m grateful to realise there’s enough water in the jerrycan to do the washing, having fetched it from the borehole the night before. I move the basin outside, just near my mat, and gently tip some water in - my portable washing station now ready. As I begin to clean the morning dishes, I’m surprised to see the same students from moments earlier, walking back toward me. This time with their heads lowered.
I call out my greetings once more, and enquire why they are returning so soon. ‘We’ve been sent for school fees’, they tell me. I watch them retreat back to their homes, back to their land. They will now pass the day tending to the family crops and looking after younger siblings. Their harvest will be their dinner, as one day melts into the next. Different week, different month, different year - same story. A younger version of myself may have thought of this as an idyllic lifestyle choice, but I know now, it’s not a choice. This is poverty.
The opportunity for an education means the difference for a young person to determine their own future, and this was the impetus for the One Village scholarship program.
Fast forward 10 years, and this is reality. The young people who have received One Village scholarships have become the first in their families to receive paid employment. They are now working and supporting their younger siblings to also attend school. Perhaps, most remarkably, the way they perceive themselves has changed… I think of myself and my place in the world differently. I am someone and I will and can support my community.
However, the lives of those that missed out on a scholarship have unfolded the same as their parents, and their grandparents, and their great-grandparents… The young girls are mothers at 12 or 13 years old. The young teens are still being turned away from school for fees, still returning to the same land - the same story.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
One Village is currently looking for sponsors for 2016.
Just $200 a year for day students, or $500 with boarding included, provides a young person with a scholarship, uniform, shoes, school bag, stationery, all extra school costs and a meal each day.
Students in the senior year are provided with boarding at the school. This is to enable the students to focus on their studies and to stay safe, away from the temptation of transactional sex for everyday commodities and the subsequent risk of young pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted illnesses.
Any contribution to the scholarship program is welcomed and highly valued. Donations may be one-off, weekly, or monthly - whatever best works for you.
Thank you for your support,