Lillian Muhoza had but one dream: to attend secondary school. That dream may seem insignificant to Americans; we live in a country where education is mandated and free.
But Lillian lives in Tanzania, where secondary education is a privilege. That privilege is mostly reserved for boys. As the oldest girl, Lillian’s primary responsibility was to her parents and her family.
Yet she persevered. With the help of a scholarship from AHEAD, Lillian succeeded in finishing Maneromango Secondary School in Kisarawe District. Lillian finished Form Four, which is equivalent to graduating from high school in the United States. Her accomplishment placed her in a select group of Tanzanian women. Although most girls go to primary schools, only 24 percent attended secondary school, according to UNICEF.
Since 2003 AHEAD has awarded scholarships that help girls like Lillian Muhoza attain a secondary school education. The scholarships ease the financial burden that force many Tanzanian children to abandon their studies.
Tanzania provides free primary education to all students. Nevertheless, related expenses, such as food for lunch and uniforms push many students out of the classroom. Government-run secondary schools charge about $12 annually for tuition; fees for teachers and security increase the cost to $28. Uniforms, books and other expenses add a $125, for a total of $165 per child per year. That’s a fortune in a country where the average annual income was $524 in 2011.
Lillian was lucky enough to attend school near her home; but as a girl, she bore an additional load. “My education was very difficult throughout the four years because…I had to do all the work at home before and after school,” she says. “Education is the key to life, but how can we meet our needs for studying if we stay home…caring for siblings, cleaning, fetching water and study at the same time?” Still, she remained persistent. And she credits AHEAD with helping her avoid marriage and teen pregnancy that detour many Tanzanian girls from education.
AHEAD gave support as well as money. Every month, an AHEAD staff member visited the secondary school to encourage Lillian and her peers. That mentorship sustained Lillian throughout four difficult years.
“I know that AHEAD wants us girls to have a good education so we can be somebody,” Lillian says. “I love AHEAD and I will still love AHEAD because AHEAD gave me the opportunity to complete secondary school, something I was not expecting to do.
God bless all those who helped me achieve my goals.”