The last time she was in school was the 3rd grade. Esther’s* parents did not value education; having been brought up without their own education. Her father had passed away some time ago and Esther does not remember him much; only the memories passed to her by the elders of the village – he was a hero in his day, a good wrestler and an even better hunter. Esther only knew the struggle her mother went through each day, as a single parent, to provide enough food for the family to eat.
Her tale is one of loneliness and surrounded by male children all of the time – the only girl child amongst five boys! She was bullied by the boys and she even got used to it, like it came naturally! It was common for the women in her village to also take insults from the men within the community and she was no different.
She later escaped the menace when she was invited by her surviving aunt in the neighboring village to live with her and, here, life smoothened a little. Her aunt provided everything for her apart from school fees. Her aunt’s job as a bar owner did not earn enough to afford this. The boys got preference for an education and Esther was told to help run the home and business for small money. She even learnt how to run the bar in the absence of her aunt who would usually stay away because of the many local gatherings like burials and women groups activities.
Esther had become good at counting and improved; she was proud that she was no longer cheated and manipulated by the customers due to her new knowledge and confidence with money.
Dreaming of going back to school…
In her free time, Esther would tell stories of her former glory in the old day when she attended school when she was always among the best ten pupils in her class, even with all the family difficulties. With such stories, she made it clear that her dream was going back to school and pursue a career in teaching. The aunt understood her point but was afraid because she had another thought in mind.
Life turned around one evening when her aunt proposed for Esther to get married to one of the prominent customers. Her aunt told her that her real family was never showing any form of concern and she was uncertain of her future. She thought that Esther could get security for life through marrying this gentleman.
Puzzled and perplexed, Esther could not figure out what to do next. The marriage was arranged in a few days and she had no say in it, not even a word! So, she decided to escape and run to her distant great grandmother who was very old and could barely afford to feed and accommodate herself, but then she was the only option Esther had.
Things took a different direction once Esther found life unbearable with the great grandmother after months of struggling to find what to eat. To see her dream of a better education come true, trying out life on the streets was the next option she had since all her attempts so far had failed and it is from the same streets where she met her fate and the beginning of her new journey.
No street called home
S.A.L.V.E. International is working hard to see that there is no street called home. Since meeting S.A.L.V.E., Esther was supported through counselling at our Drop in Centre and was able to be home traced and resettled to her mother. I, Sarah, a S.A.L.V.E. social worker, was able to explain to her mother how important Esther’s education is and now S.A.L.V.E. can find a kind-hearted sponsor to support Esther to return to school.
She is now back to being a child, living her dream of being at school, with her future ambition of becoming a teacher revived.
*The child’s name has been changed in line with our child protection policy.