For Jane Mbewa the dream of becoming a nurse has been a constant motivation for her to work hard at school. However, the road to getting educated has never been smooth for her as she continues getting caught between a rock and a hard place.
Jane, who comes from Magodi Madhlopa Village, Traditional Authority Chindi in Mzimba, says the only way is to keep moving with life in the hope that things will get better for her.
She says her dream of getting a good education started to fall apart when she lost her father some years ago. She was in Standard Seven at the time.
“That marked the beginning of our problems. But I put myself together and continued with school,” she remembers.
Jane went on with her education and was selected to Katunguwire Community Day Secondary School (CDSS).
But after completing her Form One last year, she eloped with a man during the holidays without her family’s knowledge. She was 15.
She says a man enticed her to get married.
“I did not know what marriage was all about. I thought it was all good and that all my problems would come to end, but after seeing all the problems that came with it, I left,” she says.
Her mother, Chrissy Hara and her brother Watson admit that they were annoyed. They heard that she got married but did not know where she lived.
“My daughter has always been talking about school and becoming a nurse. To learn that she married was something I could not bear,” says Hara.
She thus went to complain to Chanyama Community-Based Organisation (CBO), an organisation which has been taking a leading role in a number of activities in the area such as withdrawing girls from marriage so that they can continue with school, child protection, early childhood development and HIV and Aids awareness.
Chanyama CBO executive director Snowden Kumwenda says Jane was one of the vulnerable youths the CBO had spotted for EveryChild, an international organisation, to pay school fees for.
“In fact, EveryChild has been financially supporting her since she was in primary school,” says Kumwenda.
As his organisation was planning on what to do, Jane’s brother, Watson, took things upon himself. He went to the village where she got married and took her back home.
“My brother found me alone. He took me back to my village and that was the end of the marriage. I was relieved,” she said.
Although she was back, Chinyama CBO did not stop there as it took the matter to court. According to Kumwenda, the CBO wanted to punish the man who married Jane and the case is still in court.
But when Jane wanted to go back to school, the CBO advised her to go to a different school to avoid being mocked by pupils who knew she was once married.
“We moved her to Madede CDSS. EveryChild continued with the financial support,” says Kumwenda.
But being a small village, the story of her previous marriage was already known at the school. That was not a problem for her as no one was bold enough to raise it.
The problem, though, came from the surrounding villages. Madede is a self-boarding secondary school and Jane found a house which she was renting with friends. Rumour started circulating that there was a girl who was withdrawn from marriage. As such, men started flooding her house for their ‘luck’.
“I did not like it. I tried to tell them off but while some reluctantly left, one man kept on coming. He would come with his friends and that was too much for me,” says Jane.
At first, the parents and relatives did not know what was happening to her. After the end of the first term at the new school, she returned home. However, after the holiday ended, Jane refused to go back to school.
This troubled her mother, Chrissy, who took the matter to Chanyama CBO to tell them that the girl was refusing to go to school. She did not know the reasons.
“We went to meet Jane to find out why she was refusing to go to school. It was then that she revealed that men surrounding the school were troubling her,” says Kumwenda.
Now they are planning to transfer her again. Jane wants to go Endindeni CDSS, which is a bit far from her village, hoping that her past is not known.
In the meantime, the withdrawal from marriage is still haunting her.
EveryChild country director Brussels Mughogho says Jane is one of several students that his organisation is paying school fees for.
“Our aim is to ensure that the youth should not fail to get education because of poverty,” says Mughogho.