By Robert Tapfumaneyi
RUSHINGA: Eyes full of tears, Rudo Magara (14) says all she wants was to get financial support and be able to complete her education, work as a housemaid and take care of her family.
While most of her agemates are busy playing teenage games and studying, the story is different for the Rushinga minor who has the burden of taking care of both sick parents, who are also unable to walk or do anything without her assistance.
As if that was not enough weight on her young shoulders, the girl, whose name means ‘love’ in English, is the first born in a family of six younger siblings whose daily needs she also takes care of.
Her responsibilities involve cooking, washing and making sure they attended school.
Rudo’s day starts as early as 4 am when she fetches water to do the dishes, cook for her parents before embarking on her own journey to school.
In an interview last week with NewZimbabwe.com, Rudo said she always tried her best to complete her daily schoolwork while still at school before going back home to pick up on her daily home-based care duties.
“Both my parents are very sick. They cannot do anything for themselves without my assistance, I cook and sometimes help my mother to bath,” she said.
“After school, I go back to the borehole to fetch more water, clean the dishes, and cook for the family. After that, I make sure that I bath all my younger siblings before they sleep.
“Our daily supper is sadza with dried vegetables, or dried okra, or fresh when available and sometimes we cook green maize to eat.”
Rudo added: “But in as much as we may have our dried vegetable, one of the challenges is getting meal mealie, we sometimes fail to get money to go to the grinding mill and we just eat vegetables and sleep.
“I also look after my three young sisters and two brothers, only the two of us are going to school with my younger sister in Grade 5.
“When I finish school, I want to be a housemaid, get paid, and take care of my family.”
Rushinga is one of the districts in Mashonaland Central province with a high rate of child marriages, teen pregnancies, and school drop-outs. And this is one of the drivers of poverty.
Rushinga National AIDS Council (NAC) district Aids coordinator Eric Taramusi said as an organisation, they were doing their best to reduce child marriages and school drop-outs through various programmes targeting teenagers in and out of school.
About 19 percent of last year’s school drop-outs were due to marriages and unwanted pregnancies.
“Statistics at Magaranhewe Secondary School show they were having an average annual rate of 11 to 12 female school drop-outs due to child marriages, but last year they only recorded two,” he said.
“Major drivers of dropping out of school include poverty and failure of parents to pay school fees. At least 48 teen pregnancies were recorded in 2018 and 45 were recorded in 2019.
“We have a DREAMS programme (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe) in 10 wards. The programme is targeting payment of school fees for 300 vulnerable girls, including those interested to be re-integrated into schools.”