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At what Cost

At what cost?

She was excited when she received an acceptance letter from the University, the first in her family to ever be accepted into a university to study a degree program. She had always been top of the class and many students admired her. However, her excitement was tinged with worry. How was she going to afford to pay the exorbitant fees required. In addition to the fees, she had to have money for food, accommodation and the day-to-day living expenses. Her parents were both unemployed, relying on an old age grant. She was an only child, a child of their old age. Although her parents were poor, they loved her to no end. They had big dreams for their sweet girl. It worried them that they would not be able to provide her with the best things in life.

They sacrificed a lot so that she could go to school and from an early age, she showed signs of intelligence. She loved Mathematics and would often be heard counting out loud late into the night. English was her least favorite subject. No one spoke English in her village so it was difficult to practice. She often struggled with new words but no one could pronounce them properly and no one could help her except her teacher. Her parents were both illiterate so they could not help her with homework and could not teach her how to read at home. Nevertheless, she persevered.

By the time she went to high school, it was clear that she was a very bright student. She decided to major in science subjects – one of the few girls in her class who took sciences subjects. She excelled in all the science subjects and was among the top ten students in her grade. Her parents were very proud of her but they knew that one day, their little girl would have to leave the village and go to the city to look for a job. The life orientation teacher took special interest in her and one weekend visited their home. He explained to her parents that she was a very bright student and would be accepted at University. He discussed the fees required and the application process.

She applied for many bursaries but none could take her at first year. They promised that once she was accepted into a degree program, and she proved herself throughout the first year, then she can be considered for a bursary.

She was accepted into an engineering degree. Although her parents could not understand what engineering was about, they were very proud. They told everyone who cared to listen that their little girl was going to be an engineer.

The acceptance letter brought much joy to the family but it also clearly stated all the money that was required for her to register. Her father decided to sell his four cows so that she could go to university. The money was enough to cover registration fees, accommodation for a month or two and there was a meager allowance for food. They decided that she should go to the city and register at university and they would continue to seek for funds to support her.

Working in a University, an environment full of young women, I often pause to speak to them and hear their stories. Stories from rural girls touch me the most.

I see young girls desperate to get an education, first time in the city. No funds and no rich relatives to support them. The only way to survive is to rely on rich men- the so called ‘blessers’. These tycoons in their 40s and 50s and can afford to rent a flat for their young mistress, buy them the latest clothes and live a lavish lifestyle… but at what cost to the young girls? At 20, they are forced to have unprotected sex and instead of focusing on getting a degree, they are introduced to night clubs and alcohol. They depend on their blesser for their survival in the city and for continuing with their studies so they really have no choice but to do everything that the blesser wants them to do. Going back to the village is not an option.

Girl Power
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