When I became an Obama Scholar, I knew that I would change the world. In Chicago, together with 24 other Obama Scholars from across the globe, I was fortunate to spend a year at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. This incredible opportunity equipped me with the skills, experiences, training and the connections from the Obama Foundation’s network of young leaders and global change-makers to help me to take my work to the next level.
We are excited to announce a new milestone, the #100Scholarships Initiative. This is our new signature effort that goes toward our mission of creating 100 opportunities for kids between 13-16 years of age for access to education for the disadvantaged in marginalized communities. Over the years, we have made progress working with you and others who have committed your time and resources to support our work.
This year, African Community Fund For Education (ACFE), partnered with the John and Jacolyn Bucksbaum Family Foundation. This partnership allowed ACFE to introduce this new program and campaign in rural Zimbabwe. We went to a remote rural community in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe, the Musena Resettlement area. Musena is located approximately 50 kilometers from Mvuma, the same place where I was born and raised. It has 21 villages and each village has an average of 30 households. For every household, at least one child has dropped out of school or has never been to school. In over 50% of the households, there is at least one child who has never attended school. Our #100Scholarships initiative has changed the story of this community.
There are three primary schools and only one secondary school in the area. Because of the small number of schools students often have to travel from as far as 15 to 18 kilometers per day to make it to school. Twenty-five percent of the students miss classes each day due to the long walking distances and at least half of the students will not eat a meal at lunchtime. ACFE has selected 100 children from 100 families in the 21 villages. The selection process focused on children who were either out of school because of financial challenges or those who had completed their primary education but could not afford to proceed to secondary education. ACFE reached out to orphans and children with disabilities. 70% of the scholarships went to girls. The likely alternative for these 70 girls in this group of 100 is that they are at risk of early- child marriages which then leads to no chance of pursuing their education. Our commitment is to change the lives of these young people and others like them through education and leadership development.
We have already touched the lives of many children like Prince, Leticia, Joana, and Elizabeth. Four kids live in a nuclear household headed by their single mother and none of them would have returned to school had it not been for ACFE. There are many stories and children like Billard Makiseni, while at home he spent most of his time as a child laborer doing all kinds of work in people’s homes. The little money he was paid was meant to be saved to return to school, but it was being taken by his guardian who used it for other purposes. So many of these children face these difficult daily challenges when they stay at home. Unfortunately, for girls, the abuses may lead to rape, unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of HIV or AIDS.
If we cannot reach out and provide the resources to these children in remote rural areas, they will not otherwise go to school. When they don’t go to school the chance of them succeeding or improving their lives drops dramatically. We need people who want to help, if no one helps, nobody gets an education, and nobody gets a better life. Please help.