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Mildred makes history

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Last month, 28-year-old Mildred from western Zambia became the first person in her village to graduate from university. Mildred grew up in a family of nine children in Shangombo, a remote district off the electricity grid where poverty runs deep. We wanted to honor her achievement by sharing the news with the whole Camfed community!

Mildred is one of 1,027 young women Camfed has supported through higher education to date – women who are studying subjects such as medicine, environmental science, IT, and social work, and using their knowledge to benefit their communities.

Here, Mildred talks about how she defied the odds to achieve her dream of becoming a teacher.

What obstacles did you encounter on your path to university?

My mother died when I was four years old, and my father disappeared, and never visited or supported me. I was raised by my auntie, who had children of her own. She struggled for my education, but she was doing only farming for home consumption. Sometimes I had to leave school for long periods of time so I could work weeding farmers’ fields to earn money for my school fees.

After graduation, going from a rural school to a big university in the city wasn’t easy. When I arrived, I didn’t have any idea how to do research. I struggled to understand the instructors, because where I come from, we speak a different language.

How did you overcome your challenges to graduate from university?

While I was at university, my whole family supported me in whatever way they could manage, encouraging me and sending me food from their gardens. One of the teachers helped me, too: he taught me how to research and write a paper. I was able to succeed because people believed in me, and that gave me confidence in myself.

It has always been my goal to attend university, despite my background. I believe that nothing is impossible. I used to look at those who have gone to the University of Zambia and made it and some of them were from poor backgrounds, and some of them were women – so I thought, “What about me? I can make it also!”

What are you doing with your education?

I decided to be a teacher because all professionals come from a teacher. You can think of a lawyer, a doctor – they all pass through teachers. I wanted to become someone who is giving people knowledge and making an impact in their lives.


 

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