Thirteen-year-old, Tadiwa from Ward 23 Nyanga District, Manicaland Province is back in school after she had stopped going to school for a year. Tadiwa was doing grade 5 when she stopped school in 2016 and was supposed to be in grade 7 in 2018.
Tadiwa is now back in school supported under an ActionAid programme Empowering Girls to Overcome their Barriers to Education. After the break she had to start from grade 3 in a remedial class at a school in Nyanga. Currently, she moved to another school where she is doing grade 6 after her mother, who had sent her to stay and look after her chronically ill grandmother when she dropped out of school, now wants to stay with her.
Tadiwa stays with her mother and new husband, an older brother whose fees are being paid by Tadiwa’s mother. She has paid school fees for her four male siblings with one of Tadiwa’s brothers having done school up to Advanced Level. While her siblings attend school without disturbances, Tadiwa sometimes absconds from school to escort her mother to the clinic for prenatal care for her younger siblings. Tadiwa’s father is late, and her mother re-married after his death. Tadiwa’s mother is a subsistence farmer and so is her new husband.
While Tadiwa’s mother could not afford to pay for Tadiwa’s fees, she shouldered on to pay fees for the boy children. In Tadiwa’s community, boys’ education is prioritized more than the girls’ where most girls end at grade 7 while others like Tadiwa drop out at an earlier stage as parents attribute their failure to pay fees to poverty.
Tadiwa used to spend most of her time doing chores and taking care of her grandmother when she was not going to school. “l used to wake up at 6 in the morning to do dishes, looked for firewood, watered the garden, did laundry for granny and cooked for her.”
“I’m happy that now l have friends and l can also play with other children at school. I used to feel lonely when l saw other children going to school every morning, but l could not join them. My friends are Susan and Tanaka. I always wished to read books with others when l was not in school. When l grow up l want to be a teacher like Mr Jombo who is my teacher,” Tadiwa said.
Tadiwa’s teacher, Divaris Jombo, noted her improvement in class. “I started teaching Tadiwa in the second term in 2018 and her performance is improving. She needs to keep on working hard. However, Tadiwa’s improvement is hindered with her absence from class sometimes.”
Tadiwa is one of the 3000 in and out of school girls of 6-18 years, who are being assisted under the three-year Empowering Girls to Overcome their Barriers to Education Programme which is running from 2017 to 2019.
An ActionAid Baseline Study in Nyanga in 2017 revealed that there were negative attitudes from parents/guardians and communities on issues to do with promoting education for girls. This came out clearly in Kanyimo Ward 4, in Nyanga where parents indicated the cultural norms that girls’ education is not important, “as they will eventually get married”. Because of such norms, families would rather invest in educating the boy child as he is the one expected to provide for the family. As a result, not much effort is put in educating the girl child.
The ActionAid Baseline study indicated that some girls who drop out of school generally have a negative attitude towards education. This is mostly due to cultural norms that marriage is more important than education. As a result, they drop out of school to elope and get married. However, there is high probability of abuse in these marriages and some often being forced to return to their parents and guardian’s homes.
As such, Empowering Girls to Overcome their Barriers to Education Programme is helping the girls who are victims of such norms to accomplish their dreams of being educated and independent by assisting with paying their school fees.