It was her first year of High School. There had been so many changes in her life so far. For the first time she was attending a boarding school, far from home. She had performed well the previous term. She was just a girl, hoping to have a smooth high school experience. One day her Geography teacher summoned her aside and asked about her family, about her parents. She did not realize that she was lifting the lid on a painful part of her life that she had wished would stay closes and hidden. Tears welled from the corners of her eyes. She brushed them aside. She swallowed the words. She struggled to explain to the teacher that she had lost her mother while she was eight years old, that she had never known her father. She did not have any idea why her Geography teacher asked such emotional and personal questions. She thought perhaps she had noticed something wrong and was just being the Guidance and Counseling teacher that she was. She never realized that beneath all those questions, lay a silver lining that would be revealed later.
It turned out that there was an organization which was searching for brilliant girls who had been orphaned at a young age. Their aim was to pay school fees for such girls. They wanted to sit with them and nurture their dreams, they wanted to give them wings to fly. They wanted to alleviate them from their poverty stricken communities and give them something better to look forward to in the future. They wanted to inspire them, to watch their eyes grow big in admiration once they realized that their dreams would come true. All the orphans at her school were listed. Then began the tedious process of picking out, of all those enlisted, who had a stellar performance.
She has never known whether it was simply by the grace of God. In her whole school, of all those orphaned kids, only two of them were considered for the bursary. She never knew why she was among those considered worthy of that opportunity. Her school fees would be paid, and that would lift a heavy load off the shoulders of her grand-mother. She looked back at her village. It was plagued with so much death. Mothers left their children so young. Mostly the grandparents had to take the role of looking after the children. She looked around and saw so many dreams terminated. Most of them were people she grew up with, people she played with as a child. The girls had to stop going to school because they lacked school fees. Some had to get married so young. Some had to resort to providing manual labour to survive. This meant that for generations they would always languish in poverty. This meant that come what may, they would never live a better life than what their parents lived. Yet here she was, her school fees paid in full. She thanked God every day for that opportunity. She longed for the day she would give the same back to the society that believed in her no matter what her gender or spiritual affiliation was. That organization, Agape Training and Counselling Centre, stirred in her a tireless dream. She always had this longing to steer forward, a girl-child project that educates brilliant yet orphaned girls. She always dreamt of giving them wings to fly, of inspiring them to dream beyond circumstances. She often dreamt of a day she would walk through the gates of her former school, perhaps with a year's school fees in hand for one deserving beneficiary. She always wished that women will join her in this noble venture maybe as vessels of inspiration and hope or as financial contributors to this great cause.
Many women have gone through such circumstances in life. Most of us sit on the knowledge that we have been gifted with without giving it up to somebody younger who really needs it. What if we saved some money every month just to educate one girl per year? What if we went to schools and mentored the girls along the career paths that we have chosen? The time is nigh, for every woman to rise, for every woman to sow seeds such as the girl-child project, for every woman to touch hearts, nurture dreams that will bear fruits. Those two lucky girls whose fees were paid in full are all grown now. They stand tall today, venturing into male dominated fields. Heads held high, Mathematics has become the air they breathe. Nothing can take away their girl-child dream. It lives, it thrives, it breathes, it is lying just beneath the surface, waiting to conquer the world. Those two girls were given the wings to fly, and they have never relented in their quest to succeed. Even when things got tough they always rose. That is what we should live for, to give to another, to share with another soul the blessing which has been bestowed upon us. For women can change this world, one girl at a time.
Written by Maureen Songa