Entering school years was like entering a jungle, writes Tumaini Makole, 25, a Correspondent from Tanzania, where the odds of successful survival were low. He urges African leaders to take action, and change that experience for the sake of children and the future.
I am writing this letter while my eyes are shedding blood tears. I was born and raised in a small village in Dodoma, Tanzania.
In 1999, I was lost into the jungle. I didn’t know if I would come out – most of the children who entered before me were lost.
This jungle was primary school.
I was not alone in the jungle. I found about 108 children in the jungle and I joined them. The journey in the jungle was long and with many difficulties. We tried to help each other throughout the jungle but it was impossible. Only 29 children came out of the jungle in 2005.
Young girls were forced by their parents to drop out of the school for marriage – and no one was speaking and protecting them. Among those in the jungle were some who were very bright, and could’ve become community and world leaders. Even now there is no one speaking out and raising their voice for them to be heard to the world.
I remember one young girl who dropped out of school for marriage – the teachers tried to their level best, and the girl came back to school, but soon after completing the journey she went back to her husband.
Most of the young boys who dropped out of the school came from pastoralist families – they were used as a labour force for keeping livestock. This is still going on, and no one is taking necessary measure to stop this. Other youths had the passion to complete their journey through the jungle but because of their families’ poverty they could not. They couldn’t afford school uniforms and exercise books.
Among 29 students, about 20 of us passed the final examinations, but only eleven of us joined secondary school. The rest didn’t join secondary school because they could not afford to pay school fees and other expenses.
Sub-Saharan African countries are facing a lot of problems including climate change, extreme poverty and corruption. Youth have been left behind without any help and they are struggling without knowing their future. This has fueled underdevelopment of these countries.
In 2006, I left home when I was chosen to join secondary school for my ordinary level studies. This was a day and co-education school, and by that time I was 15 years old. This was the beginning of a long and difficult journey to me because I was not getting and feeling the love of my parents and community anymore.
I met different folks from different communities at school, and from the community where the school was located. I found peer pressure that influenced me and in one way or another changed my behavior. It was the time when I was in adolescent age facing a lot of changes without any awareness of ways of handling the changes.
I found myself in relationship with a youth girl who was in Form One also. This was the beginning of a new life to me and I was proud. But I didn’t know the consequences of engaging in relationship at an early age because my parents didn’t tell me anything before about changes which occur in teenage years and how to handle them. My girlfriend transferred to another school in 2007.
During this journey of about four years, the same story as in the jungle happened. Young girls dropped out of school because of pregnancy and other students left studies because of poverty. They could not afford to pay school fees and living expenses – the school was located far away from their motherland so students were supposed to rent houses in the community. Boys and girls sometimes were living in the same house but different rooms. These led many students to get involved in relationships, leading to poor performance in their studies.
Also contributing to poor performance was the absence of laboratories, few books and poor learning facilities. Out of 108 students who graduated on 2009, only about 20 of us passed the passed the examinations and joined for advanced level and further studies.
It’s my call to all African and world leaders to invest in education. It’s a time for African leaders, especially sub-Saharan leaders, to stop corruption and violence and invest in education. Only by doing so can they help more youth make it through the jungle.
Reach me on Twitter @ tumaini_tz
About me: My ambition is to see the world to become a better place for everyone. A place where no one who is dying because of lack of health services, pregnant women get better and quality health services, every child goes to school and no child dies because of hunger.
I am interested in leadership and good governance, sexual reproductive health and climate change.
Currently I am a third year student at Muhimbili University pursuing bachelor of pharmacy.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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