Monitor readers send six African girls to high school
(Page 3 of 3)
Hunger alters prioritiesSkip to next paragraph
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Hunger is also probably a factor in the saga of the seventh village girl, Anne, the daughter of Mrs. Bonefesi, the subject of the original Monitor story.
Anne attended only the first day of class - and then stopped going. The reasons are not completely clear.
Anne is buoyant 15-year-old with a moon-like face and warm eyes. She has - or had - a boyfriend who showered her with presents, including a new skirt and hand-and-body lotion. The boy may also have given gifts or money to Anne's parents, who probably were willing to accept it because of their hunger. (Bonefesi says the hunger crisis has depleted her savings account to just $2.) But there was a catch: The boyfriend wanted Anne to marry him - and not go to school. She'd be tending house and bearing children.
During tough times in Africa, girls are the first to leave school. A recent UN study of eight African nations found an average of only 73 girls in school for every 100 boys. Girls are often seen as providers of manual labor - not potential breadwinners. When families are forced by limited finances to choose which child will be schooled, it's usually a boy - as he's likely to develop more earning power to help his family.
Sometimes it's about more than just economics. In Anne's case, there was witchcraft - or at least the threat of it.
Before school began, Anne's parents say, the girl's grandmother began pressuring them not to let her go to high school. The grandmother feared the boyfriend "would go have a spell" cast on Anne - and that "Anne wouldn't be able to conceive," explains Anne's father, Bonefesi Malema.
But beyond this threat, both Anne's parents and grandparents also stood to gain from Anne getting married: The boyfriend would probably continue to provide gifts or food. So Chiluzi suspects both the parents and grandparents were against Anne going to school - but the parents didn't want to admit it to this reporter. "It's our culture to beat around the bush," says Chiluzi. "This is a culture that believes in witchcraft," he explains, and people will often say anything to avoid confrontations that could lead to the casting of spells.
Eventually Anne's father persuaded the boy to let Anne go to school for now - and get married later.
So, Anne is back in the classroom. But Chiluzi isn't confident she'll stay very long. He's trying to find another school for her and the other girls - one that's farther away from the village and its family complications.
Anne, with a new pencil stuck into her afro for safekeeping, says she wants to stay in school. "If you get married, you could get divorced" and then you have no future, she says. School, she adds, "is where you make the future."
How to help To contribute materials such as textbooks, magazines, or scientific calculators to the girls' schools, send them to:
Bowa Advancement of Girls Education Project
c/o Ulemu Chiluzi
Private Bag A89
Financial contributions may be sent to:
The Monitor Readers' Bowa Fund
Treasurer's Department, A10-01
The First Church of Christ, Scientist
175 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
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