A Young Mother Prepares for High School

Sakhile happy to be in a formal school systemSakhile Vilakati, age 21, lives in Siphofaneni in the Lubombo region of Eswatini. Since both of her parents passed away nine years ago, she has been living with her guardian, who is unemployed. After taking her Junior Certificate exams and passing only 3 of the 5 required subjects, Sakhile was not eligible to transition to high school, nor did she have the financial means to pay for her school fees. She dropped out of school in 2015 and then had a child in 2017.

When Sakhile’s Community Councilor informed her about the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, she saw the project as an opportunity to fulfill her dream of returning to school.

The DREAMS IC project came at the right time for me, as I had no one to take care of my school fees, yet I really want to complete my studies and go to university for a better future. I was so overjoyed when I got the call that I was going to be part of the project that I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t wait for the day when we were to start classes.

Sakhile enrolled at Siphofaneni Study Center in 2017 and studied three subjects, all of which she passed due to her high level of motivation and effort.  Now eligible to move on in the formal school system, she applied to Hlutse High School. She was accepted and received a bursary through the government fund for orphans and vulnerable children.

However, Sakhile faced one final financial barrier: the mandatory “top-up” fee that goes to the school for her operation expenses but is not covered by the government bursary. DREAMS IC stepped in to fill the gap and paid the top-up fee which Sakhile would not otherwise have been able to afford. Sakhile was relieved that her school fees will be fully paid for the upcoming year and is excited to continue her studies.

I will ensure that I pass and finish my high school education next year and enroll at university. I want to be a teacher and take care of my family,” vowed Sakhile. “I’m glad that Bantwana through the DREAMS IC project has extended a helping hand to us marginalized girls. This is a good project and I hope the government can see the impact it has made on our lives.

DREAMS Innovation Challenge in Eswatini delivers programming to reduce HIV infection and increase resilience by retaining girls in secondary school and providing teen mothers who were forced to drop out of school with alternative education platforms.