Working for Her Children’s Future April 25, 2014  by      

By: Suzanne Thomson, CFK Organizational Consultant

At a recent meeting for the parents of CFK scholarship recipients, Mildred sat in the front row, attentively listening to the discussion taking place and turning in her chair when parents behind her stood to talk. Like the other parents at the meeting, her child is a beneficiary of a CFK secondary school scholarship, which covers 100% of students’ school fees. Knowing how important this is for her daughter, Gloria—and for her family in general—Mildred joined the conversation with the other parents to figure out how they can best support CFK’s Education Program and their children.

Born and raised in Kibera, Mildred didn’t “get the privilege to get through school,” having to drop out in the second year of secondary school because her family wasn’t able to afford the fees. “My mom didn’t know about education and didn’t value it, so it wasn’t a priority. Now, we have to value education to get ahead because everyone asks for papers [certificates proving you’ve completed educational courses]; you have to have them if you want to be considered for a job.”

Living in the Soweto East village of Kibera with her husband and three children (Gloria being the eldest at 14), Mildred and her family were selected to be part of a governmental initiative to “upgrade the slums” by constructing permanent residential buildings for Kiberans. As part of this initiative, the government has constructed temporary housing for Kiberan families while they build permanent residencies in their home villages. (You can read more about the slum upgrading project here.)

After moving to a 3-bedroom apartment, which they share with another family on the other side of Kibera, Mildred and her family are now planning for the next step in the upgrading process. To move back to their community in Soweto East and to be able to secure one of the permanent upgraded structures, her family will either have to come up with a sizeable amount of money for the down payment or move back into the informal structures of Kibera. On top of this, a recent fire in the Soweto East village burned down Mildred and her husband’s business, a water access and toilet facility.

With so much on her mind, Mildred is grateful that her children’s educations are secure for now. Gloria, in her first year of secondary school, is benefiting from a CFK scholarship and Mildred’s two younger children are doing well in primary school. Mildred looked back on the application process for the scholarship with a smile on her face. “I wasn’t sure how to get Gloria through school until a neighbor told me about CFK. Gloria applied and the two of us were called for an interview. I remember Gloria spoke so passionately about her education that she was almost crying. She was so worried that this was going to be the end of her education. When she was selected, we couldn’t believe it; we were so happy. Gloria said then and there that she would work hard and come back to Kibera to help others who are in her same situation.”

“I just want Gloria to become a powerful lady in Kibera,” Mildred said of her oldest child. “I always tell her about women in power and that they were once just girls like Gloria. Through hard work, determination, and always remembering where she’s from and where she wants to be in the future, Gloria will do well. She must know that she’s an important person because I know she is.”

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