The Power of Perseverance Tanyaradzwa’s journey to getting an education has been shaped by many life-changing lessons.
Text: Patricia Mabviko Photos: Joshua Kumunda Video: Kingston Musanhu
A fter completing primary school, homestead near the rural gold-mining town of Kwekwe, in Zimbabwe’s Midlands Province. It was a fresh start for both of them since Tanyaradzwa’s parents had divorced. In Kwekwe, her grandparents were excited too. They immediately enrolled her at Sidakeni High School, the nearest school, seven kilometres away. Her grandfather, who worked for a small mining operation, paid her school fees from the little that he earned. Tanyaradzwa was excited to continue her studies. She and her mother had just moved to her grandparents’ LONG DAYS AND LONG WALKS Tanyaradzwa began walking to and from school every day, past the mining pits and trenches that dotted the landscape – the remnants of large, now-mostly-defunct gold-mining activities. The 14-kilometre round-trip walk was challenging; between that, her studies and her chores, she was exhausted.
of them had vehicles and offered girls rides to and from school. Tanyaradzwa recalls a number of girls accepting the rides. Some eventually dropped out of school after becoming pregnant. “What really saved me was the encouragement I received from my grandmother every day and the guidance and counselling lessons we got from our teachers,” she says. “These kept me so motivated that I was able to stay focused while in school.” THE TURNING POINT “They [teachers] told us that it’s possible to abstain from sex and that if you want to get involved with someone, you have to get tested for HIV first. Then you know your status and can make an informed decision regarding your partner,” she says. Tanyaradzwa made the decision to abstain until she completed her education. She passed her exams, and her grandparents were excited to enrol her into A level the following year. But then, later that year, her grandfather lost his job, so she was unable to pay the school fees.
“When girls wake up in the morning, they have to sweep the yard, make a fire, fetch water and prepare food,” Tanyaradzwa says. “All these things have to be done before you leave for school so that there is order at home.” When she returned from school, she had to clean the dishes, collect firewood and prepare the evening meal – all before it got too dark, as there is no electricity in the area. Although these responsibilities were sometimes overwhelming, Tanyaradzwa resolved that she would work harder and remain focused on her studies. But because of the distance she had to walk, she started arriving late for school and couldn’t always concentrate. This was made worse by the significant obstacles she encountered during her walks to and from school. Some villagers she met along her way would mock her, saying, “Your education will amount to nothing in your village.” Then there were the gold panners who regularly waited for girls along the road to proposition them. Some
Tanyaradzwa prepares the evening meal with her grandmother in their home.
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