SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Livingstone
THE social inequalities and feminisation of poverty have triggered the noble campaign for equal access to education across gender.
Various surveys conducted show that among children not attending school, there are twice as many girls as boys, and among illiterate adults, there are twice as many women as men.
In a bid to reduce the illiteracy gap between women and men, most women countrywide that did not complete school due to one reason or the other have been given the opportunity to return to school unhindered, as a matter of national policy.
One such person who has taken advantage of the re-entry policy is Livingstone-based Angela Chuulu, 25, a wife and mother, who is doing Grade 12.
Despite her marital status, Ms Chuulu is not ashamed to share the same classroom with young pupils.
The Hillcrest Technical High School pupil and mother of two has defied all odds and is proud to wear a school uniform and share a desk with much younger pupils.
The dream to become a nurse and achieve financial independence is her major motivation.
â€œI admire the nursing profession and I know that passing and performing well in school is the only way to achieve my dream career,â€ she said.
She recounts that her marital journey started in 2006 when she got pregnant and was forced into marriage at a time when she was 15 years old.
That is how the young Angela, who at the time was in Grade Nine, stopped school to fulfil the roles of wife and mother.
She had no hope of ever going back to school after getting married. Surprisingly, her husband took her back to school after seven years of marriage.
In 2013, Angela started night school at Namatama Basic School in Livingstone, and the following year, she qualified to grade 10 and her good grades earned her a place at Hillcrest Technical High School.
Ms Chuulu claims that she has been performing well in school and this is what has earned her the position of school head girl.
â€œBeing school head girl is evidence enough that as a woman, I can handle leadership roles,â€ she said.
Ms Chuulu narrated that she developed a strong desire to go back to school after visiting Mbala, where she saw a lot of school-going women dressed in uniforms.
â€œI was surprised and motivated to go back to school after seeing women far much older than me dressed in uniforms and going to school,â€ she said.
Although, her decision to go back to school did not go well with some of her acquaintances and neighbours, she was motivated by her dream to become financially independent and contribute to the upkeep of her family.
The self-motivated Ms Chuulu says she believes the road to success is not plain-sailing and detractors will always be there, but one needs to stick to oneâ€™s good deeds.
â€œAmidst the gossip I faced from some neighbours, I stood firm and continued going to school because I knew my goal,â€ she said.
She said the other challenge was sharing a classroom with young pupils as they used to mock her, but her determination to achieve her dreams kept her going.
Ms Chuulu, who is only a few weeks away from completing school, thanks her husband, in-laws and parents for the support and encouragement rendered to her while she has been in school.
She urged other women to emulate her bold step, adding that education is the key to a successful future.
â€œSome people have approached me to seek advice on their desire to go back to school, I can only encourage them to enrol in school and ensure to be strong-willed,â€ she said.
She said nothing is impossible if one is determined considering that she has been able to juggle her roles of wife, mother and pupil, tough as the combination may be.
â€œI have been managing to do my house chores, provide motherly care to my two children; a girl aged 10 and a boy aged eight. I am also able to take care of my husbandâ€™s needs,â€ she said.
The story of Ms Chuulu is one that should inspire the many married women that did not complete school but have the desire to go back to school and achieve unmet goals.
Education is one of the most critical tools of empowering women and getting them out of poverty.
And considering the importance of educating women, the government and many non-governmental organisations have come up with many programmes, adult literacy inclusive, to promote equal educational attainment for girls and boys, women and men.
This is so because true human development can only be made possible if there is gender parity in every sphere of human endeavour.
This is what motivated the outgoing Hillcrest Technical High School head girl to go back to school, and she is determined not to allow her past mistakes to hinder her dream for a better future.
SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Livingstone