I open my eyes just as the first cock begins to crow. It is still dark outside. Yawning and stretching, I get up and hurry to clean the yard before the sun comes out. Then I go to milk the cows and when I’m done, I make tea for breakfast. By then my brother is ready for school in his uniform and I have to rush around getting ready for school. Where did I put my homework again? Oh! There it is, on the table by the ‘kibatari’. I grab my things and rush out of the door. I cannot be late for school again. The last time, I was caned and I do not want that again.
Five o’clock arrives and I have to head back home quickly to help mother with the cows and the dinner. My brother goes with the other boys to cut grass for the cows. I help mother chop the firewood, and milk the cows and when I am done, I join her in the kitchen. “I would like to go to secondary school…” I begin slowly. Mother gives me one of her looks. We have been through this a thousand times. She sighs, “My daughter, you are in standard seven, that is a lot of education. You need to stay home now and help with the chores. Besides, you know we have already been given your dowry…”
I know she does not have a choice; it is the way it has always been. Father talks about it often, “There is not enough time for a girl to be taken to school, she has all the domestic duties to learn.” “It is a waste of money sending a girl to school, because she will get married and leave her family.” “A woman’s place is in the kitchen, what good would a classroom do for her?” It is the way it has always been. After dinner, I wash the dishes, and then head to my room to do my homework by the lowly burning lamp. ‘It needs more oil,’ I think to myself.
As I put out my lamp an hour later, my eyes raw from the dim light, I utter a silent prayer, the same one I repeat each night, “Dear Lord, I want to become a teacher, please let me go to secondary school.”
Throughout history, girls have fallen behind when it comes to education. Our cultures have at one point or another held that a girl’s place is in the home, in the kitchen; to learn how to become a lady, a woman, a mother and a wife. Women are left out of education partly because they believe that it is not their right to go to school, that they are meant for marriage and the domestic duties.
When a mother believes that a woman does not need ‘too much’ education she will allow her daughter to believe it as well. She will not fight for her daughter’s education but rather against it (even unintentionally). This girl will get married and have children of her own and with the same belief, will allow her daughters not to go to school-and the cycle will continue.
Girls look up to their mothers. At a young age, a girl follows her mother around the house, trying to do what she is doing. Trying to help with the dishes, the cooking, the washing, and the sweeping. Watching intently and copying her mother’s actions until these actions become deeply rooted habits. When mother says something, mother must be right. When mothers are involved in their daughters’ education, when they really participate and believe in its benefits, it inspires these girls to make an effort, to become better and to succeed.
We have all heard children say things like, ‘I want to be a doctor,’ ‘I want to be a nurse,’ ‘I want to be a pilot,’ ‘I want to become a teacher.’ At a young age any child, girl or boy, has a dream. Everything is possible. That is the foundation for achievement. With an education, this foundation becomes solid. These dreams are given the wings to become a reality. So as we head to the International Day of the Girl Child, this is our call to communities to keep fighting for the girl’s right to a good education.
For comments and/or inquires please call 116 National Child Helpline. This is a toll free service available across all networks in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar. Facebook: Sema Tanzania; Twitter: @SemaTanzania or visit our website: www.sematanzania.org