When she stood up to address the students and parents at Molumbo Boarding Center in Zambezia Province, Mozambique, Alefa Jome made me think about the life changing magic of the CWS Bursary program. At only 20, Alefa can speak confidently and with great respect.
Alefa is among the recipients of a PEDRA (“stone” in Portuguese) scholarship, a partnership between CWS and Unitarian Universalists of the Cumberland Valley that supports the education of rural girls in Mozambique through scholarships and skills training such as handicraft production and business skills. Within eight years of its successful implementation, PEDRA program reached 522 adolescent girls with skills training, 1,180 parents with information about the importance of education for girls and over 200 girls with direct educational scholarships.
Alefa says that she fell in love with the Molumbo center for the first time in 2010 when she was admitted into the Bursary program. She was in seventh grade.
My colleague Michael and I met Alefa in May 2016. She had travelled from her village to attend our meeting with parents at Molumbo student center and perhaps to provide an update on what she had been up to since completing 12th grade.
Despite her excellent school certificate, Alefa has not been lucky enough to be admitted to the teacher training college due the current limited spaces available at the government college. She hopes to retake the interview in November this year and become a teacher so that she can help many girls to attend school. She feels saddened that many girls in her village are married off long before they are 18.
“It has been a privilege being part of the Bursary project,” she said. “We never lacked. Every month we were supplied with soap and sanitary items. Discipline was the key and the ‘Mae’ [the school matron] helped to ensure the girls were all in bed when they were meant to. My friends and I studied hard while in school and helped each other in groups. This is because we knew that passing exams required a lot of revision including counseling by our teachers. I have learned a lot and I know my future is very bright.”
Alefa, who was the best in her class in Mathematics, is happy to support fellow girls to do well like her. As she clutched her off-white handbag close to her chest, Alefa demonstrated such maturity and enthusiasm just like the countless PEDRA project beneficiaries employed as teachers, nurses and soldiers across the province.
It is exciting for me to see the many doors that the PEDRA project continues to open.
Sarah B. Tum is the Education Coordinator with the CWS Africa Relief, Development and Protection team.