By Jed Heubner
Jed (L) and his family with the care workers in Chisamba, Zambia
Fall is officially here. We say goodbye to the long days of summer with kids staying out playing with their friends until late in the evening, and we say hello to children getting up early and heading off to school. For many children school might seem like a burden, homework, bag lunches, and schedules, but to children in Africa, school means possibilities. As you walk past nearly any school in Africa you will most likely see a sign that reads, “Education is the key to success,” in some form or another. For many children in Africa, however, school is just out of reach.
Most schools in Africa charge school fees. Now these school fees for primary school are usually fairly low, around $25 a year, but for high school these fees can get up to $100 a year. Now that may not seem like much, but for a family earning less than a dollar a day and having multiple children, this amount is extremely difficult to raise.
In August my family had the opportunity to visit the community we are supporting in Chisamba, Zambia. They have started a preschool and have a feeding point where over 50 children are getting a meal once a day. While in Chisamba we also got to go on several home visits, meet the children we are supporting, and see where they are living. On one home visit we met David. David is a 16-year-old boy who lives at home with his mother and his two younger siblings. David's father left their family several years ago because it was too difficult to support the family. They do not know where their father went. David is a very intelligent young man, who was doing well in school, but his family couldn’t come up with the money for school fees. The headmaster at his school told him he was not allowed to come back until he paid all of his back fees and paid for the current school year, about $200 altogether. As David's mother was telling us the story, I watched David closely. I could see the embarrassment as his mother told us how he was pulled out of class and chased from the school, but I could also see the hope as he looked at these strangers who had come to visit him.
After leaving we sat with the coordinator of Isubilo Home-based Care, Peter. Peter is a local pastor who was challenged by what he saw going on in the community and decided he could make a difference in these children’s lives. He doesn’t have much, but he and his wife Cecilia have done so much for the children of Chisamba. However, helping David was beyond what they could afford as well. Peter knows David well, and told us how much he loved school. With Peter’s help, we made a plan to fund the fees so David can go back to school.
In the local language "Isubilo" means hope. We were able to bring something to David to help his situation, but we know there are many more children out there like David, children who aren’t heading back to school this time of year. My hope is that through our relationship with Isubilo Home-based Care in Chisamba we can make sure that all of the children we are supporting will have the opportunity to go to school and have a much brighter future.
To find out how you can support a child or even a whole village with your friends or your church visit www.handsatwork.org/advocate or email our partnerships coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.