Poverty is an unwanted common denominator for the many people that proudly occupy Zambia’s poorest province, Western Province. It shows itself in many ways; poor nutrition, early marriages, poor or lack education, scanty proper shelter, unplanned settlement and high employment levels.
On March 6, Mutango was born on the sandy banks of the Barotseflood plains in Mongu District. A third born in a family of eleven (11) children. Had it not been for the WISE-Zambia scholarship, she could have just been a statistic to the many school dropouts on financial grounds. Whilst WISE-Zambia cannot do all the good that the world is in need of, the scholarship afforded Mutango meant the world and the difference no words can easily afford to put for her.
Mutango is a very shy, meek and an intelligent lady. She affords her broad sunshine smile as a soldier would give a salute. My heart sunk to imagine her without education and all her academic abilities equalled to a fairytale. A hand shake with her proved a hand that has grinded the mortar, guided the hoe in many fields and brought deep cool ground water to the surface. The long distances that she has had covered from home to school is well printed on her physique and the strides she pushes on the karoo sands of Kaoma.
She vividly took me to the year 2001, when I asked her to tell me about her early school days. She got enrolled in her 1st Grade at Mongu Primary School. She paused through the talk and a smile and a deafened chuckle, and collected from her archives the rhymes, songs and first English words and expression like ‘Please Teacher! May I leave the room’ and ‘I am sorry I am late’ and many others that marked her education milestones. She found excelling throughout her primary school a great joy and reward to her effort and was ever ready to give more to maintain a top class position. A top position in a class that had more males was more than royalty to her. She held her cheeks together in her hands and said, “Dad would lift me on his shoulders from school and spoil me with a memorable dinner each end of term for my excellent performance.”
Her hard work, tenacity and interest in school could not wear out even in the presence of negative peer pressure and demanding house chores as expected from a girl in her culture. She kept on soaring beyond her primary school.
I saw her smile vanish, replaced by a short thoughtful silence and hard placed lips as she took me through the year she stopped school. Her parents had now divorced, with her mother going back to her village in Luampa, leaving her in her father’s care. She was selected to go to Kambule Technical School after passing grade nine examinations with flying colours.
Two things had put a painful past memory in 2017; she continued almost shedding tears, “I could not get back to school due finances and I got pregnant in an effort to salvage my life back to school.”
“Life became unbearable as a mother without any means of making ends meet. Like a prodigal son, I went to join my mother in the village.” She continued talking while shaking her head as if she was in trance.
Her mother could not afford seeing her daughter in such a state; a school dropout and a single mother. She had been there. She could not allow it that such a life should be her child’s portion too. With determination, she presented her plight to every ear that could spare a moment. Fortunately, WISE-Zambia heard her story and came to her aid.
Deliberately, I asked her what life would be like had it not been for WISE-Zambia sponsoring her. With a sigh and an upward meditative look she responded with many possibilities that could have been her fate, “be a maid, rural untrained early-childhood teacher, or maybe married add to that poor meals and long working hours in the fields” she sadly concluded.
Mutango is interested in pursuing a career in Accounts after completing her secondary education at Luampa Secondary School with 14 points. A dream made possible by many kind people who give in various ways to WISE-Zambia that poverty may not make many academically gifted young people lose an opportunity of becoming well meaning members of the society.
Mutango is now one of WISE Zambia’s student interns for the next year, pending her start of college studying accounting.
Mutango’s joy of being a beneficiary cannot easily be expressed in human words. She praised God and her mentor Maggie and many that are supporting WISE-Zambia.