For 13-year-old Beauty, school is a blur of sleepy hunger.
Her community have been hit hard by drought caused by a strengthening El Niño and food is scarce.
Beauty, an orphan, lives with her grandmother and three younger siblings. There is no food at home. The family depend on Beauty’s chores in the morning to get by each day. This means that each day, Beauty wakes at 4am to fetch water and pound dry corn with a stick before setting off on the long walk to school.
The walk to school is 18 kilometres, to and from school on an empty stomach under the blistering Zimbabwean sun.
“The distance to school makes me lose hope,” says Beauty. “I sometimes feel my bones aching. The journey back home is unbearable too, especially knowing that there is nothing to cook. Some nights we go without food. After such nights, I cannot wake up to go to school, my body fails me.”
As a result, Beauty’s education is failing.
“The situation is becoming worse because I know my fees are not paid and my grandmother cannot buy me any books as all the money is buying the little food she can afford. Girls like me have to stay at home during school days to look after our siblings while the mothers are away from home, engaged in petty trading or other economic activity aimed at feeding the family. I do menial casual jobs to get a few dollars to add to the money at home, I have no time to play.”
Adolescent girls at secondary school in Zimbabwe
Growing up too soon
Across Zimbabwe, children are struggling to stay in school. Parents can’t afford school fees and many children drop out to work and support their families. Those that do make it to class are trying to learn and concentrate on an empty stomach.
When children leave school they are often forced into adulthood. They are taking jobs away from home where they’re exposed to abuse and exploitation away from the protection of their families. Boys are leaving for South Africa to look for work while girls aged 16 and 17 are getting married.
Keeping kids in school
Plan International is providing children with food at school so they have the energy to learn. At the same time we are training families to help secure their livelihoods, even in times of drought.
With an estimated 30% of the population in Zimbabwe food insecure we need to reach as many families as possible, to do that we need your help.
Make an urgent tax-deductible donation to the Zimbabwe Hunger Crisis by June 30, to help keep children in school.