Going to school was never easy. I grew up as young African girl from Burundi. In my culture, parents believe that it is better to send boys to school than girls. They believe that a girl is supposed to stay home to do household chores for the rest of her life. My parents were never interested in taking me to school, not even for a single day. I am the second born from five children, and I am the only girl. My father always prioritized my brothers. I stayed home to make sure food was ready when they returned from school. This made me feel very bad, as if I am not a child like other children. As a young girl, I dreamed of working in a bank. However, my culture undermined my dreams. I remember that my mother used to call me in the kitchen to teach me how to cook beans when I was 8 years old. Apart from cooking, I was the one responsible of cleaning plates.
When I was ten, I left home without telling my mother where I was going. I was very scared, because I was sure that I would be punished after arriving back home because in my culture, leaving home without communicating is not a good thing, especially when you are girl. However, I found the courage, and sneaked out of the house around 7am, when my parents were still asleep.
I followed my friends to their school at a place known as Dzaleka Refugee Camp. It is located in the central region of the country, Malawi. In Dzaleka Refugee Camp, primary and secondary education are free of charge to refugees and to the local community. My friend Zainabu assured me that they never had to pay anything for their studies. This gave me courage to follow my friends and entered in standard one class without informing anyone.
On this day, the class teacher started calling attendance list and I was the only one left without being called. When the teacher called me in front to hear my case, I started crying. Fortunately, the class was so touched by my story and decided to help. He took me to the headmaster who was the one in charge of enrolling students into the school. With tear rolling down my cheeks, I told him I wanted to study but that my parents wouldn’t allow me, and that they didn’t know that I am at school now. I assured him that I will be punished but I will not mind since all I want was to be studying. The headmaster was moved by my story and decided to help me. I will never forget him, as he convinced my parents that I am should be going to school like the other children. From that day, I started going to school.
It was difficult to settle into the rhythm of going to school. It was completely new and I thank my friend Zainabu who led me though the whole process, and helped me get used to it. On the second day of class, I was being bullied by classmates. I cried in front of everyone. I remember that I wanted to run outside and cry alone, but Zainabu followed me and comforted, and told me it would be alright. I even thought of quitting since I was not used to that kind of life, and I didn’t expect being bullied in class. However, as time went by, I made new friends and I began enjoying classes. During break time, we would play together with my new friends including Zainabu.
During the first term, I performed poorly. I became number 31 out 45 students. I cried a lot on my way back home. However, I didn’t want anyone at home to know my grades. When my brothers asked me about it, I told them I didn’t receive my school report. Before starting my second term, I promised myself to focus and earn good grades. During the second term, I became number 8 and I was super excited. When I got home, I didn’t wait for anyone to ask me about my grades but I just showed them. Everyone was surprised and happy for me. Even my father was pleased and encouraged me to go toschool. I was happy to see this reaction from my parents. This is the day that I promised myself that I will not turn back but chase my dream of working in a bank. After finishing my diploma in Business, I want to get a bachelor’s degree in business management. With this degree, I believe that I will be able to accomplish my dreams
I am now an independent woman because of education. I will forever praise education as a key to success.
19 January, 2023