She is not a stranger – we have all seen her photos and videos. She is one of our Join My Village secondary school students. We have known her as a student who defied all odds to pass the National Junior Secondary school examination in the year 2011 especially even after being dismissed by her secondary school head teacher just before the National examinations. The reason for her dismissal was due to her standing and talking to her boyfriend at the school gate during evening time after curfew. Yes, she broke the school rules because there is also some cultural values attached to it but the punishment was too harsh.
The forced holiday made Alice lose hope about her education future. While Join My Village helped Alice get a transfer to begin a new chapter in her life in a new school and environment, unscrupulous boys did not leave her alone. She fell pregnant. Alice was pretty aware that no school would enroll her while pregnant but decided to take a risk thinking that nobody would be able to realise the unborn child at an early stage as one month. Fortunately things worked for her and she has secured a place in school which she could reclaim after giving birth.
Alice now has a baby born on 4th of February, 2012 and her brother Lucky Mkonda named her Debora. She is only 16 years old but her face bears witness to a life of hardship. She is now living with her grandmother who has no means to support Alice and her daughter. Alice is the third born in a family of four children.
Alice, who was not staying with her real aunt in Kasungu, has now gone to her home village Ekwendeni some 250 kilometres from Kasungu district. Life has never been easy for her. She has increasingly got used to enduring what others would consider unbearable. Her ability to feed and dress her daughter has been highly dependent on her grandmother.
“I feel sorry for myself because I have brought a responsibility I was not prepared for. Looking after a baby and doing school are two big things which need my attention but still I am not completely defeated and I am working towards rebuilding my future,” lamented Alice while holding her daughter in her hands. Alice got enrolled at Ekwendeni Community Day Secondary School (CDSS), a school which is close to her original village. Asked about the responsible father, Alice with a regrettable look on her face just shook her head in denial of his whereabouts.
‘I am fascinated by your visit and I am so happy when I am talking to you especially that you are from Join My Village,” added Alice while assuring me about her willingness to go back to school. Join My Village will always hold hands and try to uplift girls in a situation same as Alice. Her assurance and commitment in education which not many girls show, allowed Join My Village to continue supporting her as soon as she is ready to go back to school.
Join My Village understands that sometimes the situation puts a girl child at high risk of not continuing with her education and so ruining her future. Alice is a true reflection of what Join My Village is trying to solve. JMV seeks to support girls to remain in school and finish their studies and it also seeks to delay the marriage age of a girl child to that time her body is ready and able to deliver without complications among other things. There are many girls like Alice who become mothers at a very tender age and with fathers who don’t even care at all.
However, Alice, sounding more concerned and promising, said she is down but not out. According to her, living up to her dream is the battle she can’t afford to lose. She has so far made friends with nurses at her nearest hospital who also mentor her to have a fighting spirit.
My journey to find Alice, which started at Elesiya Msowoya’s house in Kasungu, ended on another encouraging note upon learning how eager Alice Mkonda, who moved to another district, is to further her education. It also pleased me when I heard that her sister in-law would help her look after the child when Debora gets older while Alice goes to Ekwendeni Community Day Secondary school.
Stay close to the page as I keep you posted on the new life of Alice Mkonda; a mother, a student. Your expectations are as good as mine, will she manage? Hopefully yes!