GIRL (14) FIGHTS EXTREME POVERTY

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VICTORIA KASANGA writes
@SunZambian

EXTREME poverty, which has stalked so many households in highly-populated areas, has failed to shutter the dreams of a 14-year-old young girl of Ndola, who has gone against all odds to continue her education.

Despite encountering choking barriers, Cecilia Mwape, is determined to purse and complete her studies as she juggles between school work and vegetable selling to support her pursuits.

A courageous young girl narrates her story in her own words in the sprawling Chipulukusu Township; her father passed away in 2011 and endures struggles with her widowed mother and five of her siblings.

THE SUN: please tell us about your life.

CECILIA: I am the fourth born child in the family of six and I am 14 years old and living in Chipulukusu Township.

I have four sisters and a young brother. The eldest in our family is my sister Elizabeth who is 21 followed by Veronica 19, Josephine 17, my young brother Bernard 11 and my youngest sister Stelia who is seven years old.

I used to live with both parents in Chipulukusu where my sisters and I used to learn in school until my father passed away in 2011.

THE SUN: what happened after your father passed away?

CECILIA: life became difficult after my father passed away.

My father’s young brother did not want to support us in anyway. On the fateful day that my father died, he came to the funeral house and said he wished that all of us could have died with his brother and from there he never visited us ever again.

My mother became the only pillar of the entire family. We only used to have vegetables for lunch, life became so difficult that we all stopped going to school. My mother was unable to pay school fees for us.

But my mother started working in other people’s gardens, helping them to weed their fields and once she was done she was told to get some vegetables as payment for her labour. She was rarely given money for her work.

She continued doing the same until she got married to another man. My stepfather was so mean to us and to our mother and everything worsened.

One day when he came back home drunk, he picked an argument with my mother and he beat her badly and destroyed part the house we lived in.

THE SUN: what did your mother do after the house was destroyed?

CECILIA: My mother just covered part of the roof with carton boxes and we would spend nights in the same house even in the rainy season. The place became unbearable as we would get socked each time it rained.

My stepfather left us on the same day that he destroyed the house and we never saw him again.

My mother then asked for help from her friends and one of them allowed us to stay in her backroom.

My mother continued working in other people’s field until she found some capital. She then started going round selling vegetables in the community and that was how she started managing to find money to get us some food.

THE SUN: what happened next?

CECILIA: After mother raised some money, we left her friend’s place and started to rent a two bed-roomed house.

I stayed for some years without going to school and at the age of six I was helping my mother with her business of selling vegetables.

We used to move together around the community until I was able to move to different townships to sell the vegetables.

We started raising enough money with my mother as I would come back with K20 per day and my mum would also bring some money. That’s how we were able to take care of the entire family.

THE SUN: did you think of getting back to school after raising some money?

CECILIA: After selling for some years, I wanted to go back to school because I used to admire my friends who used to go to school.

I raised enough money and my mother added some and that was how I started going to Mapalo Primary School. I resumed my studies this year and I am in grade four.

The SUN: what time do you go to school and how do you manage your time?

I wake up around 05:00 hours every day to go and order vegetables from gardens. After ordering different types of vegetable, I start going from township to township. I walk long distances from Chipulukusu to Northrise, Kansenshi up to Ndola Villa.

The SUN: Don’t you get tired by the time you finish and what time do you start school?

I start school at 11:00 hours and knock off at 15:00 hours. I have to make sure that I finish selling vegetables early enough to have time to prepare for school.

The SUN: What challenges do you face in your business?

Sometimes, I do not finish selling and the vegetable would perish. It’s really difficult. In other times, customers will be aggressive as we knock on their gates.

I do not want to give up on school no matter what challenges I face. My elder sisters are not educated but I want to be different because I know that only education will enable me to look after my mother and my other siblings once I complete.

THE SUN: what do you want to become when you complete your education:

CECILIA: I want to become a nurse once I am done with my education. I have always desired to work as a nurse because I like to help and care for people around me.

And I would like to urge other children going through the same things I go through to never give up on their dreams. They should work very hard as hard work pays at the end of the day.

THE SUN: How would you like the community/government to help you?

CECILIA: I really would love to be helped with resources for my education so that I am able to complete my studies.

Right now I go to Mapalo Primary School and I pay K130 tuition fees per term. Once I am done with my studies, I will be able to help my other siblings.

I would also love for my mother to expand her business so that she is able to have enough money to sustain the needs of all the children at home.

Currently she just sells vegetables but if she was able to open up a small shop, she would do fine as she is always hard working.

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