Tiffany Ankrom is finishing her MCC service term with SALT (Serving and Learning Together) in Zambia. She attends Hartville Mennonite Church in Hartville, Ohio.
This past year, through the SALT program, I worked as a teacher at Chimwemwe Trust Community School in Lusaka, Zambia. The school is tucked in a low-income, high-density compound and provides education to orphans and vulnerable children.
The educational system in Zambia is in dire condition. Many children are packed into small classrooms that may or may not have a textbook or a teacher. Chimwemwe is a unique school because it offers smaller, more manageable class sizes. This allowed me to be able to connect with many students and hear their fascinating stories.
One student opened up to me about the trial of attaining school fees from her family. I have learned that many female students not only face financial problems but also deal with discrimination due to cultural traditions.
It is a tradition in Zambia for men to pay labola, a large sum of money, to the bride’s family before getting married. Labola was initally intended to repay the family for losing such a valuable person, but today the tradition has lost some of its original intent.
My 15-year-old student told me of how her father is putting pressure on her to find a husband and get married instead of pursuing an education. This bright and eager student had been waiting at home, pleading with her father, for two years until she was able to continue on from seventh to eighth grade. Unfortunately, her father has still refused to pay her school fees for this term. Since Chimwemwe is sponsored by Global Family, it is able to accommodate such situations, although the school still struggles to adequately pay staff.
This year I have had the privilege to work toward seeing justice in the lives of many students at Chimwemwe. It has been a challenging but fulfilling experience.