Page last updated at 21:29 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 22:29 UK
Hungry to learn across the world

Young women in Zambi and Bangladesh explain why school is important to them, as part of the BBC News Hunger to Learn series.


Penelope believes IT can empower young girls in Zambia

When she was 14-years-old, Penelope Machipi was forced to drop out of school, after losing her parents.

Now 22, she manages a centre which teaches IT to hundreds of young women in Samfya, northern Zambia. She describes the role that education played in helping her turn her life around.

After I lost my parents, there was no one to support myself and my brother, Bruno.

We had to go and live with my aunty, who was married to a poor fisherman.

Ten of us - including their six children - lived in a single-room straw hut in the fishing camp.

My aunty struggled to feed us all and we had no money to pay for school fees. That is why I had to leave school.

Penelope Machipi
I used to watch the girls who were going to school and wish I were one of them
Penelope Machipi,

Samfya, Zambia

I was very sad, as I enjoyed going to school.

I wasn't alone. There were other girls who also had to drop out because of poverty and vulnerability.

Some had lost their parents and, like me, had no one to support them through school.

Dropping out affected me. I suffered a lot. I really wanted to be at school.

I used to watch those girls who were able to go to school and wish I were one of them.

'No escape'

I knew that education was the one way I could escape poverty - but because of poverty I was unable to go to school.

With education you can get a job and make something of your life for yourself and for your family. I knew this well and it was painful to know I couldn't go to school.

I felt very limited without education - I felt as though my chances of escaping poverty were closing down.

When Camfed (an NGO which helps rural girls return to school) was introduced into the community - the headmaster said I could come back to school. I was so happy!

Penelope Machipi

I knew that my future was bright through education. My family were happy for me as I could improve my life. My aunty just really wanted me to have an education.

I really enjoyed being at school. I enjoyed English - that was my favourite subject - and history.

I had always wanted to learn to speak and write English well because I wanted to be able to communicate with others and translate for people in my community.

History has taught me how our African leaders and my people lived before me.

Education has given me great amounts of confidence. I have been able to overcome challenges that without education I would never have been able to overcome.

Education has also made me a more responsible person. I now have a position in my community. I have a good job, and I have everyone's respect.

Girl power

Girls like me in rural Africa have the same dreams and ambitions as girls everywhere, but they are destroyed by poverty.

Rural Zambia

Female education is the key to ending poverty. We say that when you educate a girl you educate a nation.

Education gives women a voice. It empowers women and allows us to be independent. It reduces the risk of HIV and allows us to make informed decisions.

A year ago, I was chosen as an IT scholar on a special training programme, part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative.

I had never used a computer. But as a result of that training, I am now the manager of a new IT centre in my district of Samfya.

We are a group of four women IT trainers who train young rural girls how to use computers.

We teach them how to type on the keyboard, how to print, how to do an internet search, how to download information, and how to use email.

Penelope Machipi and her students

Since the centre has opened we have had more than 500 people visit us.

We are also teaching students at two local secondary schools, and soon we will start teaching younger children as well.

Teaching IT connects the community to the rest of the world.

People use the computer to search for information to grow their businesses. They search for health information. They can also listen to the news and hear what is happening in the world.

Your comments on Penelope's story:

Hi Penelope, I read your story and it touched me. Like you, I was born in Zambia. My family was not rich and I struggled to make it to high school in Lusaka. You have a sense of Hope that shines. What I find remarkable about your story is that you are already giving hope to your community. Let your Hope continue to shine because there is still much more you can do to improve your education and yes your community! My own story began in the Mungule village and later Lusaka. My mother was peasant farmer. I now live in Canada and I have a PhD in educational administration. So keep your dream and hope shining!
Pannel, Canada

I understand everything you have gone through. When I was going to both primary and high school I could hardly find the money not that my mother did not have it but she was just hard to me and my four brothers and three sisters.
Angella, Jamaica

Education is the best asset anyone would ever choose to acquire. This girl's determination has inspired me to an extent that I will endeavour to repeat her story to children that have all that it takes to acquire knowledge but don't utilise the chance. With wisdom coupled with knowledge, no one will ever cheat you.
Aubrey, Lusaka, Zambia

Penelope is an example of a young enterprising African. If we had dozens of youths with such experiences, we were ging to turn around the fortunes of Great Mother Africa.
Paul, Usaka, Zambia

I was moved to see IT being introduced to girls in such a place as Samfya. My parents hail from northern Zambia, so I am cognizant of the level of development or lack thereof. I salute Camfed, Goldman Sachs, and Penelope for their contributions. I hope that the government can take a leaf from this innovation.
Frank, USA

I am happy for you Penelope for not losing hope and focus despite the death of your parents. Today, your are a teacher, role model and source of inspiration to others in similar position like you. Your success re-integrate the need for governments to continue to invest and make education their top priority in order to not only break the circle of poverty but build a more vibrant and progressive society. Keep the flag flying!
Omorodion, Boston, USA

It is indeed very encouraging to see what determination can lead one to. Penelope is also a beneficiary of direct aid which go right to the people that need it. 'Dead Aid' occurs when you empower the already wealthy Govt. officials to carry out programmes in the Education and Health sectors resulting in the same computers landing on the black market including medicines appearing in private pharmacies. Keep up the good work.
Makweti M, London, UK

Education before all else. If you are illiterate you will not understand health issues. If you do not understand health issues your children will be brought up the same as you were, and the cycle repeats its self... on and on from generation to generation. The wheel goes round of Rape, Abuse, Neglect, Sidelined and ignored without any rights! It is still happening now because we do not want to "EDUCATE THE GIRL CHILD." Educate before all else.
Doreen, Lusaka, Zambia


Laily, Bangladesh
My name is Laile and I am 13 years old. I am a student of grade eight studying in Maswimnagar Secondary High School.

I am the third daughter of five. My father is a day labourer on what my whole family live by.

My mother is mainly a housewife but works sometimes in other households when it is available.

I used to come to school every day, walking about four kilometres on foot.

Almost every year my house gets flooded - it is a mixture of tin and straw roof.

Three or four years ago, I faced very great difficulties to continue my studies for financial reasons.

But then my teachers; both govt. scholarship and female stipend and neighbours helped me to continue my study.

Without their help it was impossible for me to continue my studies.

Still today I have to rely on government's female stipend and on teachers help to purchase my books.

Through my school I involved in the project Connecting Classrooms run by British Council which helped me a lot to learn about the life style of a student of my age and culture of the United Kingdom.

Your comments on Laile's story:

It has been a pleasure to see with government help, the underprivileged female children's of the poor country as Bangladesh have been getting education. Hope this will continue. Educating young women will delay early marriage as well as provide the women to get jobs. In this way country could reduce population explosion.
Tasbir, NYC, USA


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