Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

A fearless supporter of students in rural Zambia

Veteran teacher and headmistress Arube Nalwimba is on a mission to empower and protect her students from violence and exploitation.

It’s a busy day for Mrs Nalwimba at the primary school where she works in rural Zambia.

This morning she met with triplets in Grade 7. She called the girls into her office because, although they are promising students, they were falling asleep in class.

She learnt they had, as usual, woken up at 4am to do their chores before making the 8km journey to school by foot.

They were exhausted before they even got to their desks, and were at risk of being abused as they walked in the dark for hours.

The girls had already been held back a year so they could catch up. Mrs Nalwimba resolved to find a place where they can board closer to school, so they would be safer and would not have to walk so far.

Their education is too important! An educated girl knows her rights and how to exercise them.”

Mrs Nalwimba

“Girls here have no role models. They can’t imagine what it is like beyond the village. So I tell them I’m about to retire and I want them to come here and take over.”

Her passion for protecting children comes from seeing the effects of violence and exploitation on the children in her care.

High rates of child marriage, violence and forced labour are among the main threats to children in Zambia, according to Katongo Mwansa, ChildFund Zambia’s Child Protection Specialist.

“We know that we cannot end child poverty if violence persists,” Mr Mwansa says.

“Children who are subject to abuse are more likely to underachieve at school, drop out and miss out on an education entirely.”

For boys, one of the biggest threats is being forced to drop out of school and work in unsafe jobs.

“In many communities, you’ll find boys out of school and involved in things like sand mining and agriculture – heavy, physical work that is well beyond their age and can be hazardous to their health and wellbeing,” Mr Mwansa says.

Girls in Zambia are forced to marry at a higher rate than almost any country in the world. Almost one in three girls is married before she turns 18.

High rates of child marriage, violence and forced labour are among the main threats to children in Zambia

ChildFund and our local partners are training community leaders like Mrs Nalwimba in child protection so they can ensure children are free from violence and exploitation.

For Mrs Nalwimba and the community around her, vigilance is important.

Every day my team are taking note of the girls who are not in school. We then make sure we find out the reason from their friends.”

Mrs Nalwimba

This hands-on approach to child protection ensures Mrs Nalwimba and her colleagues can act quickly if a child is at risk, but it is a community effort.

Mrs Nalwimba will be running a ChildFund-supported community outreach workshop to educate families and local leaders about children’s rights and the dangers of exploitation and violence.

Attitudes towards child marriage in the community have changed because of these workshops. For example, over her three decades of teaching, Mrs Nalwimba has seen the number of child marriage cases in her schools drop from an average of 24 a year to three.

Mrs Nalwimba is passionate about keeping children in school, and ensuring they are safe and can reach their full potential. She is transforming the community around her for generations to come.

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