From my home in Australia collecting donations for Hurudza School I had a vision in my head of a fulfilling experience of dropping off much needed school supplies. But when I arrived at the school it was nothing like what I expected. I have never experienced such poverty and disadvantage and it saddened me greatly.
Let me paint the picture for you:
Most of the families in the Hurudza area are extremely poor. Many of them are farmer labourers who don’t own any property so they move around frequently from farm to farm, looking for work.
This means that the first hurdle for these children, with their education, is constantly moving from one school to another. They have to adjust to a new environment, new class mates and a new teacher, and that is just the beginning.
From waking in the morning there is so many challenges between these kids and getting a decent education. There are no leisurely sleep ins or casual breakfasts around the table here, children need to get up early and help with the household chores. Not because of some western idea of instilling work ethic but because their survival literally relies on it. Without everyone chipping in these families would struggle to eat.
Once they have finished their chores children then face the walk to school alone which can be up to 10km per day. Parents are busy starting their working day that chaperoning them just isn’t an option. To make it worse it is often still dark so children as young as 6 are walking alone, in the dark, very long distances to even arrive at school. For young girls the danger is even greater with the risk of rape extremely high and police corruption a common issue.
So it’s no surprise that many of the families choose to avoid school altogether – getting an education can be life threatening in this part of the country. Even more choose to delay their girls going to school until they feel they are better able to defend themselves.
And in the wet season the river near Hurudza school is prone to flooding which means children may arrive at the river and not be able to cross and get to the school so their only choice is heading home again.
After all that if they do arrive at the school the facilities are minimal at best. Whilst the school is fundraising and building their first proper structure, at the moment everything is corrugated iron. Which means when it rains there is minimal shelter for the children, teachers and their school work.
On top of that many families cannot afford the fees for school, Hurudza school is supplementing many parents by using profits from the tuck shop but it is still not enough. I met a mother whose child is in year 1 and could not afford school supplies as basic as a pencil. This 6 year old would attend school anyway, unable to participate but just sitting and listening because that was the only thing she could do. The feeling I got from seeing the tears in her eyes as she thanked me for giving her daughter her first pencil, is indescribable.
Part of our donations to Hurudza School was providing every child in the younger grades with a pencil and the older children with a pen. Year 7 students were also given a pencil each for their high school entrance exam that they all need to sit that requires it. Imagine if that was your child, unable to get a proper education because of something as simple as a pencil. Have a look at the price of a pencil next time you are at the shops and just let that sink in.
I am very grateful to the students and staff at Hurudza School for sharing their experiences with me and being so candid in their stories. Whilst I found my visit very confronting I now have such a better understanding of what they go through on a daily basis. Rather than feeling despondent and sad, I know I can channel this into a way to make a difference in a meaningful way.
If you would like to donate towards Hurudza School’s building fund contact me and I will put you in touch with them.