EMMANET Ndlovu (19) from Mtshina village in Tsholotsho Matabeleland North is overwhelmed with emotions as she speaks about her shattered dreams.

She dropped out of Sikente Secondary School in 2017 where she was doing Form Three after her parents could no longer afford to pay her fees

A year later she fell pregnant and is now a mother to a two-year-old child.

She sheds tears as she narrates her story. It was a mistake she says.

Her dream was to be a nurse but her parents’ failure to pay her fees meant she could not further her education.

“I could not proceed with education as my mother who resides and works in South Africa was ill at the time to pay my fees. So, I dropped out of school and I fell pregnant in 2018. My life has not been the same. I stay with my younger sister aged 14 years. My life is now stagnant as I don’t have an education or source of livelihood and skills to help me in life. Some of my friends who managed to complete their education are now working.

If I had not dropped out of school, I could have completed my education, maybe I could have pursued my dream to be a teacher,” said Emmanet.

She said her boyfriend relocated to South Africa and does not regularly support their child.

First lady empowers teenagers mothers

With her is another teenager, Charmaine Ndlovu (19), (not related to Emmanet) who told a similar tale of hopelessness, as her hopes were also dashed when she dropped out of school when she was in Form Two at the same school in 2017.

This was after her elderly parents failed to pay her fees.

Charmaine said her idleness contributed to her falling pregnant but her boyfriend has since relocated to South Africa. She said there are no prospects of them settling together.

“I fell pregnant in 2019 and my child is 17 months old. It’s painful seeing that my peers have completed their education. I wished to be a teacher; I know I could have passed my examinations as I used to produce fairly good results. I wish I could go back to school or even start a business,” said Charmaine.

The two teenagers are part of several others from Mtshina Village in Tsholotsho’s San community who were recently visited by First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa, to discuss the challenges they experience in their day to day lives.

The youth are said to have told the First Lady that poverty in their community was contributing to their sexual exploitation as they sometimes enter relationships with men on the promise that they would buy the women stuff they need.

After being impregnated, they are dumped as most of their boyfriends migrate to South Africa leaving them to fend for the children alone.

Touched by their plight, the First Lady pledged to capacitate the teenagers with a self-help project of sewing reusable pads and yesterday delivered on her promise.

Matabeleland North Senator Cde Alice Dube was sent to handover sewing machines and material for producing the reusable pads to the community on behalf of the First Lady.

The equipment was handed over at Mtshina Primary School and the teenagers will be trained to produce reusable sanitary pads.

“When the First Lady held a meeting with young people from this community about a month ago, they poured their hearts out to her. They revealed that because of poverty they were forced to engage in relationships with some men who would give them money to buy sanitary pads among other things,” said Cde Dube.

“Most of these children end up dropping out of school due to early pregnancies and failure to pay fees. We want to thank the First Lady for engaging them and coming up with this sanitary pad sewing project. It will come handy as some of them have been using unsafe pieces of cloth during their menstrual cycle which in the long run could affect their health.”

She said while an initial 10 sewing machines will be delivered, it was her hope that more will be delivered when production increases.

Cde Dube said the project aims to capacitate the teenagers to be self-sustaining as opposed to depending on their male counterparts who have proven to be unreliable.

She discouraged community leaders from hijacking the project from the teenagers but instead support them so that it can be a success.

Cde Dube commended the First Lady and her Angel of Hope Foundation for targeting marginalised communities saying the community-oriented projects are key in developing the country.

She said while the reusable pads project was targeting teenage mothers, the First Lady has commissioned several projects for the community including nutritional gardens to guarantee food security in the area.

Mtshina village head Mr Madlela Maphosa welcomed the sewing machine project saying it was his wish that the girl child is financially empowered as most of them fall prey to men who entice them with money before dumping them.

“Most of them are falling pregnant because of small things like jiggies (snacks). I also have a granddaughter who has fallen pregnant yet these men do not give them much and we are left to look after them. We are the San people, we don’t have anything to give these children and when they fall pregnant, they become our burden as we cannot send them away,” said Mr Maphosa.

“I want to thank the First Lady for coming up with a project targeting the youth.”

Mr Maphosa expressed gratitude to Government for implementing developmental projects targeting the San community.

“In the past few months, we have observed the First Lady, Government ministers, coming to visit us as the San community. A few weeks ago, the Registry visited our community to assist us to get national identity documents. Most of our people managed to get documentation without a hassle.

“We had adults with grey hair like me who never had national documents but now are full citizens of this country together with their families. We want to commend Government for coming to address our needs,” said Maphosa

SOURCE: The Chronicle

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