“Education brought her old self back and rejuvenated our motherly and daughter relationship and in a way she is my role model and I call her Iron Lady.”
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Michelle Varaidzo Tarumbidzwa Chikurunhe , I come from one of the high density suburbs in the capital city of Zimbabwe . I am a soft spoken and ambitious young woman aged 22, whom most describe as a social butterfly. I have recently completed my studies towards my degree in Social Work and will be graduating in October this year. I am a youth activist and currently a Project Coordinator at Youth Ensemble. Apart from being a Global Youth Panelist for Education in Emergencies, I am also a member of the UNGEI Ferminist Coalition.
What inspired you to advocate for education?
Having seen first hand the sad realities and experiences that young women like myself go through due to poverty and lack of education, this developed in me a great passion to better the lives of young girls and women by advocating for their right to education and any empowerment opportunities . Education has proven to be the poverty cycle breaker, a fact that I witnessed when I served as Junior Councilor for my ward at the Harare City Junior Council in 2016-2017 . These facts also led me to major in Social work as I felt it would be a field that would enable me to assist young people and fellow young women like myself.
What is one personal story that reflects the impact education has had on your life, or the life of someone you know?
While I have several people that I look up to whose lives were transformed by education, one story in particular stands out because I was a part of the journey with her first hand and that person happens to be my mother. Despite the fact that she got married into an abusive marriage at an early age and eventually became a single mother after obtaining her education. Getting married at 16 years was never part of the plan but as the African culture entails once pregnant a child would be taken to their “husband “ the father of the child, this was the case of my mother. Because she had not advanced her education she was left vulnerable and forced to endure the abusive and toxic marriage. The husband being a man raised in a patriarchal household felt a woman’s place was only in the kitchen and in the labor ward and never in the classroom and worse still in an office set up. Among the years she was married she sadly fell into depression and grew distant from everyone including myself which negatively affected me. If it wasn’t for her foreign based sister who forcefully took her from the abusive husband she wouldn’t be a fully qualified Nurse and holder to a Secretarial and Development Studies certificate that she holds today.
“Education brought her old self back and rejuvenated our motherly and daughter relationship and in a way she is my role model and I call her Iron Lady.“
What is the biggest challenge facing young learners now, and what can we do to address the crisis?
My Aunt works for a Reproductive Health clinic in Epworth, one time last year she came home almost in tears, they had attended to a 16 year old girl who had attempted to abort, they failed to save her. What broke my heart most is how the devastated mother lamented that this girl was a straight A student and was her only daughter who had made it to O’level but all had changed when the pandemic hit and she stopped going to school. The mother, who is a vendor, couldn’t afford the online classes. It was during this time that I thought of all the young girls from similar backgrounds. If this can happen in the city then what of the ones who walk 14km to and from school each day, the ones who shared 5 or less tattered textbooks even before covid pandemic hit they didn’t have the necessary learning tools. How about now? How are they learning? Whilst other children are benefiting from online classes they have never held a simple gadget and logged on wiki how, or Google. Their parents can’t even afford to provide them 2 basic meals, so how can they afford a mobile phone and data bundles for their children to get lessons? Through my line of work I have seen the harsh realities of how the pandemic destroyed the lives of young people out of school, especially young girls. The lack of engagement led to them being exploited, trafficked and hanging out with the wrong crowds. These incidents and many more are definitely pointing to the fact that something needs to be done on education during emergencies.
Digitalization needs to be promoted and invested in marginalized areas so as to avoid any young person from being left behind towards education.
“What broke my heart most is how the devastated mother lamented that this girl was a straight A student and was her only daughter who had made it to O’level but all had changed when the pandemic hit and she stopped going to school.“
All 17 Goals will be reviewed during the SDG Summit in 2023, the largest global moment since the launch of the 2030 Agenda eight years ago. What is your advice to education leaders and young people preparing for post-TES mobilization?
My advice to World Leaders and all the young people preparing for post-TES is to prepare and leave the summit armed with strategies that will end poverty and empower young girls and young boys for a Better tomorrow. I advise them to Empower them NOW not LATER.
Who is your superhero that you admire and why?
Mine is actually a Heroine and her name is Yasmine Sherif , she is the Director of Education Cannot Wait. My passion is towards young people mainly on education because I honestly believe it’s their only way to break the cycle of poverty and because Mam Yasmine has her goal set towards education and shares the same beliefs and agenda as mine I have no doubt for her to be my role model.
My favorite statement from her :
“When #education is denied to children, hopes for a better, fairer future are lost. #ECW was established with the ability to respond quickly to meeting universal education. We need action now to ensure the most marginalized are not left behind.”