Children’s Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
TO EMPOWER disadvantaged adolescent girls living in extreme poverty, in 2016, the Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ), with support from the Global Fund, launched the Adolescent Girls Accessing Prevention and Education (AGAPE) project, which has recorded a number of success stories.
The main goal of the AGAPE project is to curb the large number of girls who drop out of school due to early pregnancies and marriages and to ensure that young people have access to sexual health and reproductive rights so that they do not contract HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The project was initially introduced in Lundazi, Lumezi, Chasefu, Mafinga, Isoka and Chienge districts; with the hope of extending it to Northern, Western and Southern provinces.
When the project started, only girls were eligible for support, but after lobbying from AGAPE schools in the 2018-2020 grants, vulnerable boys were included for educational support.
Recently, CHAZ hosted an AGAPE Forum in Lusaka, which was attended by district education board secretaries, teachers, health personnel, traditional leaders, pupils and past beneficiaries.
Some beneficiaries were 18-year-old Henry Zimba, who completed Grade 12 from Chikomeni Day School in Lumezi district last year. He is grateful to CHAZ and AGAPE for the support, without which he would not have completed his secondary education.
“Before my inclusion into the project, I owed the school a lot of money. AGAPE cleared all the outstanding monies. That is how I managed to complete my Grade 12. Without sponsorship, I was stranded and I was unable to attend classes. I am so grateful to CHAZ and AGAPE for assisting vulnerable children like me,” he said.
Henry comes from a large family; his father has seven wives with 27 children. Currently, he does casual jobs to raise money for tuition fees. His desire is to study medicine.
Belita Sililo, 19, another AGAPE beneficiary, completed her secondary education at Lundazi Day School in 2017.
She explained that from Grade Nine, she owed the school a lot of money and was often absent from school; when she was in class, she was unable to concentrate because of the debt. Her frequent absenteeism came to the attention of her teachers and one day, her guidance teacher summoned her to find out why she was often absent from school.
“I told the guidance teacher that I was usually absent because I had no one to sponsor me. To my surprise, a week later, when CHAZ officials came to my school, the guidance teacher called for me again,” she said.
Belita attended interviews to determine how vulnerable she was. After that she was included on the list of beneficiaries. Immediately after, AGAPE cleared her outstanding fees, paid her school fees and ensured that every term she was given a stipend of K600 to cover her other expenses.
“After CHAZ started sponsoring me, I was able to study without any worries and I managed to get seven points in Grade 12 because I had no financial worries to distract me. I would like to study medicine because it is my first passion, but if I do not manage to raise enough money, I am willing to do any other course,” she said.
Belita, who is the last born in a family of seven, is able to counsel other young people in her position to have faith and not indulge in bad behaviour when they have no one to sponsor them. She urges her peers to persevere because there are institutions like CHAZ that are willing to help and make a difference in the lives of vulnerable young people.
Lizzy Mutambo from Mafinga district was another beneficiary in 2017. She has completed her secondary school education and is currently at Lilayi Training School in Lusaka where she is training as a police officer.
The goal of CHAZ is to ensure that young people have access to quality education by addressing socio-economic factors that put them, especially girls, at risk. This is because education is an important tool for any meaningful development to take place; it empowers and strengthens nations. It is a powerful ‘equaliser’ that opens doors and helps to break the cycle of poverty, especially for girls, who are most affected.
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, take care.
Children’s Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA