On the road update! **disclaimer** I wish I could post the videos of the students speaking about their experiences, but the internet is not good enough here, so pictures will have to suffice for now!
As I write this, I am in the back of a Jeep Explorer, driving across Matebeleland, in the Northeast Corner of Zimbabwe. The ruling party (who has been in power for over 35 years now) is Shona, and from the Harare area, while Matebeleland is the home of the opposition party. Consequently, very little government support reaches this region, and the result is extreme poverty, to a degree I have not yet seen before. Zimbabwe is currently in the middle of the dry season, and there is a huge drought nationwide, which in Matebeleland means famine, because none of the crops can grow. As a result, villagers resort to picking worms and beetles off the ground for their main source of sustenance. The headmasters we met today informed us that this is typically the only nutrition they will receive all day; and indeed, in between classes, you can see students looking for these insects. I write all this to illustrate in words what global statistics report—that Zimbabwe is the 2nd poorest country in the world according to 2015 statistics, and in a political situation that makes it difficult to see the future more than one day at a time.
Yesterday, we met with Webster Ndlovu, , one of our scholarship students, who is studying at Matopo Secondary School. Webster is an orphan, who was chosen for the scholarship program at the beginning of 7th grade. He is at the top of his class now, and is in his final two years of high school. Webster is currently studying to take his A levels in Chemistry, Math and English. He spent a half hour today explaining redox reactions and electrolysis to me today, as it is his favorite topic in chemistry. He had more enthusiasm and interest in the subject than I ever thought was possible! Webster dreams of becoming a doctor, and he hopes to return to his village in Ngamo to practice medicine in his community.
Today we met with Tholakele Mkandla. Tholakele and I have special bond, as she was one of the eighth grade students I met in the Ngamo Primary School classroom when I was fourteen, and quite literally is the reason So Others May Learn was founded. Today, Tholakele is still a SOML scholarship student, studying at Solusi University. She is a Peace and Conflict Studies major, minoring in European and African History. Tholakele has been sponsored for over 8 years, and hearing her gratitude, perspective and emotions surrounding her past and future was remarkable. (Videos to come!) Tholakele hopes to become a peace keeper with the United Nations when she finishes her degree, and I have no doubt she will do so.
We finished today by touring a number of technical colleges and universities and learning about their programs and tuition fees, so we will be well equipped to help our rising seniors apply for tertiary education.