VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
ZAMBIA is a country full of incredible beauty and deep challenges. It is no stranger to poverty, which opens the door to countless risks for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC).
But it is poverty and hopeless situations that give some OVC rare courage and determination to succeed.
The 2015 Living Conditions Monitoring Survey says approximately seven out of 10 children in poverty never complete basic education.
But Jackson Tembo, 24, is a rare gem, understandably so, the first person in his family, against all odds, to go to college and start a business while in Grade Seven.
Cecily’s Fund, a UK charity provided part of the school requirements, it’s Jackson’s undeniable persistence and resolve to succeed that has seen him climb ladders in education.
Jackson, who lives in Chazanga township in Lusaka, was only two years old in 1995 when his father died, leaving him and two other siblings in the care of an unemployed mother.
The future looked bleak for the family because his mother could not afford to take the children to school. But hope began to glimmer when Jackson’s paternal aunt enrolled him at a community school in Chazanga run by Bwafwano Integrated Services Organisation (BISO).
With funding from Cecily’s Fund, BISO provides educational support to OVC in the high-density communities around Chazanga. The BISO community centre also runs a clinic and a skills training programme. The schoolchildren are sponsored from pre-school up to primary and secondary level in government schools of their choice.
After leaving the BISO community school, Jackson was sponsored to do primary and secondary education at Kabanana and Chazanga basic schools until he completed Grade 12 at Highland Secondary School.
Cecily’s Fund was only providing 60 percent funding towards Jackson’s education. However, the death of his mother in 2008, when he was in Grade Seven, threatened his educational journey.
He was now left in the care of an uncle who could not afford the 40 percent contribution to his education.
Luckily, his mother was running a drugstore at the time of her death. So Jackson took over the business and helped himself to complete Grade 12 in 2013.
However, he was unable to raise enough money to support himself from the drugstore, mainly because he was lacking entrepreneurial skills.
This prompted Jackson to return to Bwafwano for entrepreneurship training under a programme called Fresh Start.
Now Jackson runs a barbershop and business centre he co-owns with a friend, Lucky, thanks to BISO’s entrepreneurship training for OVC. Both the J-Luck Business Centre and barbershop are located at Chazanga market.
“We decided to start a business after acquiring a grant from the Fresh Start programme. We started very small with just one computer, a printer and paid for a shop at Chazanga market,” Jackson said.
The business centre offers services such as printing, photocopying and music system for hire. They also use it to sell phone accessories and music. Jackson and his partner run the business centre alongside the barbershop.
On a good business day, Jackson bags home about K350, whereas on a bad day he makes K150. This means that in a month, his lowest income is about K4,000.
The small entrepreneur has not neglected his studies, and currently, he is a second-year student of creative digital media at Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce.
BISO helped him to secure a full government scholarship. His income helps him to cater for other school needs such as books, printing of assignments and money for transport because he is a day scholar.
Jackson says his educational journey has been rough and tough, but his determination has helped him to go up to tertiary level. From his income, he is also able to provide for his siblings. His immediate elder sister is married, but his younger sister has just completed school in the village where she lives with their grandmother
Education is a key to a successful future, and this is what motivates Jackson to go to college every day despite running a small but viable business.
He says his business earns him a fair income, but he hopes to become one of Zambia’s greatest entrepreneurs in future.
“I am able to meet my daily needs and also other requirements at college. I am also supporting my younger sister who recently completed Grade 12. Through this business centre, I am able to extend a helping hand to others in need,” Jackson says.
And to pay back to the institution that made it possible for him to set foot in class, he is the facilitator of the Fresh Start programme at BISO.
Through challenging situations, Jackson, who lives alone, has developed self-discipline and rare courage to face difficult situations.
“I have also learnt to be financially disciplined. I save money and this is what has helped me to meet my school needs and other requirements,” he said.
In his vocabulary, there is no mention of getting a job after graduating from college. Jackson wants to be his own boss and create employment for other people.
“There are no jobs. Young people like myself have to be very innovative to create employment for our fellow youths. All that one requires is innovation and determination,” he says.
Jackson is grateful to Cecily’s Fund for giving OVC, through BISO, an opportunity to go to school and a positive future outlook.
“They have been helpful and made me who I am today. I am in college and at the same time running my own business, I am so grateful,” he says.
Cecily’s Fund was founded in memory of Cecily Eastwood by her UK-based parents Basil and Alison, after the 19-year-old volunteer died in a road traffic accident in Kitwe in 1997.
In its 20 years of existence, the fund has spent about £5million to educate about 20,000 OVC in Zambia.
The UK charity wants Zambians at home and abroad to come on board and sponsor OVC in school.
Those that would like to help can visit the organisation’s website, www.cecilysfund.org.