Source: The Herald – Breaking news.
Elita Chikwati Features Editor
Hers is a tale of determination, perseverance and hard work.
She never gave up her dreams even when the odds were stacked against her. She worked tirelessly to reach her goals, never losing sight of what she sought to achieve.
Some years ago passing Advanced Level used to be a dream as she did not have the means to achieve it despite having the passion for empowering herself through education.
This is a story of 30-year-old Mary Mahati of Honde Valley, who dropped out of school when she married at 15, but still managed to go back to school and made it to Advanced Level.
Mary is willing to tell her story so other girls can be motivated to work hard.
While other children have their parents to pay for all educational costs and meet the needs, Mary funded her education.
She had to work as a maid so she could get money to pay fees.
Mary grew up in a polygamous family. Her father had three wives since he belonged to an Apostolic faith sect.
According to Mary, preference for development was given to the boys as girls were being conditioned for marriage.
Mary had the passion to go to school despite the discouragement in all sorts of ways.
After completing Grade 7 in 2006, she scored 6 units but had no one to send her for secondary education.
She was assisted by a relative who took her to Selbourne Nyanga during the holidays where she started selling fruits to raise school fees. When others opened school for Form One, Mary was not ready and had not raised enough money.
She later joined others at Sahumani Secondary School in Honde Valley after she had raised enough fees. This became her way of earning school fees.
“It was so tough; I would work during the school holidays so I could raise money for fees and other necessities.
“When I got to Form 2 in 2008, I failed to raise the fees. My hopes were shattered. I finally accepted that I could not continue with education and went to stay with my sister where I was married to my sister’s husband as a fourth wife.
“Life was tough. The family was big and resources were scarce. My brother-in-law later married two more wives and this worsened the situation.
“I felt suffocated. Initially I thought getting married was a way to improve myself but this worsened my life. I had no hope of returning to school. I only had one child and thought of going back home,” she said.
Going back home was not easy for Mary as their church did not allow such a move.
“My father pleaded with me to stay in that marriage since divorce was not allowed. I reached a stage where I told my father I could die because of the life I was leading and that is when I went back home.
“My mother encouraged me to go back to school. It was difficult to continue with school after many years of staying at home.
“I again looked for employment and worked as a maid in Harare. After raising fees, I went back and enrolled for form three at Hiltop Christian Centre College in Mutare.
“It was not easy during the first days as I was having challenges coping with school work. It was in 2019 and the country went for a Covid-19 lockdown. I took advantage of the break from school to work and get more money.
“Nevertheless, the following year I sat for the Ordinary Level and out of the eight subjects I had registered, I passed six subjects. I then enrolled for A level at Muterere Secondary School. Although I went back to work, the money was not sufficient for the school fees.
“Because of commitment, my brother who is now employed pledged to help me pay the required fees. He paid for my fees until I wrote the final examinations,” she said.
Mary obtained 20 points and is looking forward to going to university.
Her major fear is high costs of education at the tertiary level.
“I am still working as a maid. My wish is to go to university and study law. I am afraid I may not afford the fees. “ I wish I could get a scholarship,” she said.
Mary said her experience has taught her to never give up.
“I urge other young girls and women to never give up on their dreams. As the girl child one may come across many challenges even child marriage but you should never give up. It is important to get up, dust yourself and move on.
“Marriage is never a way of escaping poverty even if you get married to a rich man. A woman should yearn to empower herself,” she said.
Mary will forever be grateful to her brother for the fees and her mother who encouraged her to pursue education.
“My father was happy when the A Level results came out and I had 20 points. He also promised to contribute towards further studies,” she said.
Mary’s story is not unique as every year many girls drop schools due to teen pregnancies and early marriages.
In some communities, because of patriarchy, boys are given the opportunity to further their education while girls are prepared for marriage.
According to the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, religious and cultural norms are key drivers of child marriages.
Government is working with partners to end child marriages.
In most societies in Africa, there is gender inequality.
Women and girls were treated as second-class citizens, denied their human rights and valued less because of their sex.
It is now an offence to initiate or have any sexual or indecent relations with anyone under the age of 18 in Zimbabwe, as the new age of consent of 18 is brought into statute law.
President Mnangagwa used his powers under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act yesterday to gazette as the Statutory Instrument 2 of 2024 the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Criminal Laws (Protection of Children and Young Persons)) Regulations, 2024.
While the age of consent for sexual relations was set in statute law at 16, this was raised to 18 as a result of the Constitutional Court confirming that the minimum age for marriage set at 18 in the Constitution also logically applied to the age of consent, so raising that to 18.