It was a brave young girl named Shannel Dhiriza who prompted learners at Murape Secondary School to start the “Roses of Hope-Murape” club. The purpose of the club is to fundraise for vulnerable learners at the school who need a helping hand.
It is estimated that 8 800 children lose one or both parents, or their primary caregiver, every year in Zimbabwe1. This has led to many child- and youth-headed households, where young people are left to live alone and look after themselves. However, without an economically active adult, these children face overwhelming challenges.
One such situation came to the attention of the Headmaster of Murape Secondary School, Lameck Chahwanda. Chahwanda is a preacher as well as Headmaster and takes regular trips around the community to preach and give comfort. During one such trip he visited the home of learner, Shannel Dhiriza, and discovered how difficult her life had become.
After the death of Shannel’s father ten years earlier, the child was left in the care of her sick mother. Her father’s relatives said they would only take Shannel into their custody if she parted ways with her mother who is on anti-retroviral treatment. But instead of taking the easy option, she chose to remain with her mother and care for her. Shannel started fending for them both by doing piece-jobs, like taking in laundry. When the headmaster heard her story and saw her circumstances, he enlisted her on BEAM (the Basic Education Assistance Module), a government initiative that assists orphans to pay their school fees.
Through constant interaction with the headmaster, the FutureLife-Now! peer educators at Murape decided to give a helping hand, thereby reinforcing the bravery shown by Shannel. A staff meeting was convened where staff members were informed about the challenging scenario facing one of their learners. Using their own resources, the teachers bought groceries and collected cash which were delivered to Shannel and her mother by the peer educators.
A family that recently bought a residential stand in the area also got wind of the family’s plight and offered them accommodation in the cottage on the property in exchange for their watching over building materials delivered for construction of the main house.
All of this in turn led to a group of 20 young learners at the school forming “Roses of Hope-Murape” through FutureLife-Now! The club is sourcing funds to support other vulnerable learners from the school’s business partners such as OK Zimbabwe, Econet, and the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe, and is also hoping to start income generating projects. The club is currently assisting a girl learner with a cancerous wound on her leg whose parents appear to have lost hope.
The recognition that Shannel is being given for making difficult but honourable choices is proving to be effective as she is doing well academically and fitting comfortably into the school system.
“The African saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ embraces the philosophy that all children are a communal responsibility thereby leaving no room for social orphans,” said Aussie Ndlovu, Zimbabwe’s FutureLife-Now! Country Manager. “The ‘village’ in this context includes a network of community members, teachers, peer educators, school leaders, and learners themselves.
“Besides being centres of education, FutureLife-Now! aims to turn each school into a centre of care and support for the community it serves. This is just one example.”