Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Rough Start to the School Year

In February four of our girls at the orphanage started their senior levels of high school, which is being paid for by our fund. These girls – Priscilla, Pelucy, Ellen and Patricia – are especially bright.

Priscilla and Patricia are twins and while their marks are similar, they have very different interests when it comes to the subjects they take. Pelucy had the lowest grades among the four, which I always thought was because she’s so chatty and playful – so easily distracted – rather than because of a lack of book smarts. Ellen is the strongest of the group with ambitions to become either a nurse or a TV journalist.

You could imagine how surprised we were to learn that the four girls did not do well in their first semester. On a score of 0 – 6, they were all falling short of passing grades.

Extra Tutoring
Instead of feeling disappointment, Monica and I were concerned of what was behind the low grades. As it turns out, three of the four simply needed extra tutoring andso Auntie Milly, the orphanage manager, hired a tutor so they could continue their studies while on break.

The situation with Ellen was worrying. I received a vague message a few weeks agothat Ellen had been suffering hallucinations and nightmares. She was staying with relatives and we could not get further information. Terrified for the worst, Monica and I reached out to see what supports we could offer and to try and make contact with her.

I finally was able to reach her on the phone. She explained that a month ago she started to become ill and was not able to concentrate on her studies. On a six hour bus ride to the orphanage, she was so sick, that as I understand it, she was left at the side of the road. She eventually made her way to a nearby relative’s home. She was taken to a doctor who diagnosed her with pneumonia and gave her aspirin and cough syrup. Finally, she was able to make her way back to the orphanage where Auntie Milly took her to a proper hospital. Within days of taking the antibiotics prescribed to her she was on the mend.

On the Mend
I spoke to her again on the phone just today and she assures me that she is feeling stronger and is even headed back to the city to get ready for school. It’s been gut- wrenching to know that one of our children has been so sick from an illness that claims the lives of far too many children across Africa.

More Than Just School Fees
It has been a sharp reminder that the scholarship fund we have created for these children is meant to be a beacon of hope for them – hope that they can become successful and find meaningful work. But the reality is that the odds continue to be stacked so high against them.

From time to time, our support will be needed for more than just school fees because if all of the other issues are not addressed, they won’t succeed in school and our efforts will have been in vain. In this way, we can provide support to ensure they have access to medications when needed, tutors for extra lessons and whatever else may rise.

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