Meet Faith, a secondary scholar from rural Zambia. Faith was born in a central province, but following the tragic death of both parents when she was just three years old, she was taken in by her aunt in northern Zambia. In spite of all this upheaval at such an early age, Faith enrolled in primary school with the other children in the district, and settled into her new home.
Faith loved living with her extended family, but her aunt already had four children, and so they often struggled to make ends meet. When Faith was in Grade 8, the situation became particularly difficult as her uncle, the main breadwinner of the family, passed away. Faith’s aunt laboured long hours at a farm, but struggled to raise enough money on her own to pay for Faith’s secondary school fees. As a consequence, Faith was often sent home from school for not having paid, and, instead of attending classes, had to stay in the village, working on the farm with her aunt, and doing chores in the house. After they had raised enough money, Faith could return to school for another term.
“I never wanted to stop going to school, it was just that it was hard to raise money. When I wasn’t in school, I used to help my aunt with things like washing the plates, going with her to the farm, sweeping, washing clothes, all those things.”
Faith on her walk to school with her classmates. (Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed)
Faith loves school and is studying hard to pursue a career in medicine. (Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed)
Stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty, Faith worried that one day she would have to stop going to school altogether and have no choice but to get married. Then, one day, Faith met Alice, and her life changed forever. Alice, a member of the Camfed alumnae (CAMA) association, is from the same district in northern Zambia. Growing up in extreme poverty, at the age of 14 Alice was forced to drop out of school, and was at serious risk of becoming a child bride. Camfed supported Alice to complete her education. Today, she is a CAMA leader, working with Camfed at district level to support more vulnerable girls to stay in school and out of child marriage.
“I felt that I would maybe just get married and stop going to school, I would never have a good future, but my auntie used to encourage me that I should just pray and one day, God will answer my prayers and I will go back to school.”
Alice is a mentor and role model to Faith.(Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed)
To Faith, Alice is not only someone who has supported her at school, but is also like a mother to her (Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed)
Faith is one of 11 children (10 girls and 1 boy) personally supported through school by Alice. Having experienced many of the same challenges that they face, Alice is their mentor and role model, showing that with determination and an education, anything is possible. Faith considers Alice a second mother, “When I think about Alice, I just thank her and may God praise her for what she has done for me, because I am able to go to school. Without her, maybe I would have just got married and had a family.”
“When I heard I can go back to school I was happy because I had someone to sponsor me, I wouldn’t have to be chased out of my school. I was so excited because I wanted to finish school so that I can become a doctor, so that I can make my life better, and secure a better future for my family.”
Now in Grade 9, Faith is a prefect, and enjoys the extra responsibility and leadership that this role brings. Inspired by Alice, Faith acts as a mentor to her classmates, encouraging them to never give up on school, no matter what their situation is. Faith loves to walk to school with her classmates, waking at 5am each morning to get ready for school. Her favourite subjects are Math, Science and English.
“My dream is to become a doctor. I have faith in myself that I will finish school, and I will be able to go to college, and reach my dream career of becoming a doctor.”
In addition to Faith, Alice supports ten other children in her community. (Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed)
Now free of anxiety about how she will afford her school fees, Faith can look beyond, to her future, where she has her sights set on becoming a doctor, so that she can help other people and earn a living for herself and her family. Faith’s cousins, who always treated her as a sister, are grown up now. Some are married, some are farmers, and despite not being able to finish school themselves, they are extremely proud of everything that she has achieved and hopes to achieve. They continue to encourage her to stay in school so that she can realise her dreams.
“I have seen many people with the same life that I’ve been through, and they have been to school, and they have fought for their careers and they have finished school and now they have their jobs and they have a better future. So I also want that for myself so that once I finish school I will have a better future.”
*Faith's name has been changed to protect her identity.