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Grace,
Secondary scholar,
Malawi

Grace lives in rural Malawi with her parents and six siblings. Neither of her parents completed their education, but, recognising their daughter’s brilliance, were determined for her to be able to stay in school. They gradually sold off family land to be able to meet the costs of Grace’s education, but knew their resources would not last forever.

Poverty has not been Grace’s only challenge. She and one of her younger brothers are affected by albinism. As a result of the condition, she sometimes found it difficult to see and read during lessons. She also faces stigma from other children and members of the community, so her parents do not like her to go out unaccompanied by someone in the family.

The eldest girl in her family, Grace has many household chores to balance with her studies. With her younger sister she travels 2km each way by bicycle to fetch water, going up to three times a day.

She also helps with the cooking, and her favourite food is nsima, a type of cornmeal porridge served with roasted fish.

Grace got excellent grades at the end of primary school and was delighted to secure a place at secondary school, but worried about the financial strain on her family.

When she started school she confided in a teacher about her concerns, and a month later learned that she had been selected by a local committee for support through CAMFED’s partnership with the Mastercard Foundation.

Grace with members of her family

Grace with members of her family. (Photo: CAMFED/Patrick Hayes)

“I had gone to draw water and on my return the news was broken to me to say I have been selected [for secondary school]. I was so excited that the pail almost fell down from my head!”

With a holistic package, Grace now receives school fees, uniform, shoes, books and sanitary pads, as well as specialist support from a Teacher Mentor. With her worries lifted, Grace can better focus on her studies. She has always loved learning and particularly enjoys English, math, science and technology. Grace is also a talented athlete, and specializes in middle distance running. She is proud to have competed in a competition in Lilongwe against girls from other southern African countries, and to have come in third place.

“I am very pleased now that I am at school and my goal is to say that when I leave school I can support my relatives.”

Grace has plenty of ambition for the future. In Malawi she knows of a radio personality and journalist with albinism, who has a successful career. She also met a girl at school whose father is a lawyer and is able to support her education. Grace would like to pursue a career in one of these fields, so that she too can provide for her family.

Grace feels happy to be continuing in her education. She has formed a firm friendship with another CAMFED scholar, Tereza, who has a visual impairment. Together they are demonstrating to their community that their conditions need not hold them back from succeeding in education, and later employment.

After school, they can look forward to graduating into the CAMFED alumnae network, CAMA, and overcoming challenges together as educated young women, who support each other and the next generation to learn, succeed and lead .