Determined to succeed by getting an education
With a fire beneath her placid surface, this young girl in Zambia sets her sights on her future.
At first glance, Mary seems like a quiet, subdued child but underneath her timid exterior is a young girl determined to gain an education.
Mary and her younger brother have lived with their grandmother, Charity, since the tragic death of their parents. However, Charity is in poor health and the burden of both the housework and providing for the family therefore falls to ten-year-old Mary.
“In the morning when I wake up, I do the household chores including washing dishes, sweeping and fetching water,” Mary tells us. “I also do piece work like fetching water or washing dishes for the neighbours so that we have some money for food.”
Seeing her friends attend school while she stayed home doing housework was a source of great pain for this ambitious young girl: “After my parents died, I wanted to go to school to be with my friends and to learn.”
So, she devised a plan to allow her to do just that.
Her grandmother, Charity, explains: “It wasn’t my idea to put Mary into school. Mary wanted to go to school because most of her friends were going to school. I asked her how I’d cope with the expenses of fees and their uniforms. So, Mary said, let’s go and negotiate with the teachers.”
Mary successfully managed to secure enrolment for her and her brother Joseph on a reduced fee basis and the siblings started attending classes shortly afterwards.
“I was very happy to start school,” says Mary. “I am happy when the teacher teaches and when I am with my friends. My favourite subjects are maths and English.”
Although Mary and Joseph are delighted to have begun their education, life is still not easy for this family of three. Mary earns between 10 kwacha (45p) and 15 kwacha (65p) each night after school and, aside from the small pension her grandmother receives, this money is all the family has to live on.
“Normally there is no food before school. If there are any leftovers I will eat them, but if not, I just have a cup of water and then come to school.”
Although Mary might begin her day with an empty stomach, her school is one of over 665 in Zambia supported by Mary’s Meals, allowing her to receive porridge each school day. This healthy lunch will allow Mary to concentrate in class and make the most of the education she has already fought so hard for.