In her school hostel, Desderia, a 17-year-old Camfed scholar from Tanzania, prepares for class. (Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed)

By DESDERIA, Camfed secondary scholar, Tanzania

On International Day of the Girl, we celebrate the incredible courage and determination of millions of girls from vulnerable backgrounds, who, like Desderia, will do almost anything to get an education. And we thank the teachers and community activists in our movement, who step up to address their unique challenges. Together let’s make sure that every girl counts.


I’m 17 years old. My favorite subject is Swahili as it’s my mother tongue, but I also love English, math, physics and geography. I enjoy history too, but I haven’t yet mastered it well. Still, I like it very much.

Education is so important to me because it enables me to gain knowledge and discover new things. There’s a huge difference between those who have been educated and those who have not. For me, education is a light, showing me how to build for my future and pursue my goals. It is this education that will save me in future.

My journey in education has not been easy. When I started secondary school there were many challenges, but my parents were always there to support me. And, as a Camfed scholar, I was able to go to school without shame or worry. But, when I lost my Mom, everything changed. Then, when soon after I lost my Dad, it was as if my whole world had collapsed. And not only mine, but that of my brother and sister too. We were all alone in the world with no one to turn to. I racked my brains wondering what we could do to survive.

Before her transfer, Desderia walked 3 kms daily to and from school. Often the road was muddy and the dangers many. (Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed)

“I racked my brains wondering what we could do to survive.”

All through this period I continued in my education, awakening before sunrise to walk the long and dangerous road to school. Most nights, I didn’t get home until long after dark. And then I would start my homework, and my washing, my ironing and other chores. I loved learning, but, increasingly, I struggled to make it to all my classes. My heart was heavy, and my spirit so low.

Before my father passed, my older brother had enrolled in college. With me and my younger sister at home, and often without sustenance, he left for the city in search of work. Then there was just me and my sister in the house. One night, last year, I awoke with a fright. A huge snake had found its way into our house and could have attacked at any moment. I grabbed my little sister and we ran out into the night. Such was our fear that we didn’t dare return, but instead lay low in the bushes all night. As dawn broke I ran all the way to school, as fast as my feet would take me.

Teacher Mentor, Madame Agnes, and her former student Desderia. (Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed)

Hearing of my distress, Madame Agnes, my Teacher Mentor, came to comfort me. Some days later, she paid my sister and me a home visit. I felt as if our mother had returned to us. Someone was looking out for us, someone cared. Soon after, with support from Camfed, Madame Agnes arranged for me to be transferred to another school with a hostel, and for my sister to move in with an uncle. I was so happy, and so grateful, because I knew that if I had help I would no longer be stressed. And if I was no longer stressed, I could continue my education.

“Success is now possible — huge success.”

Now, everything is different. Life at the hostel is so much better than before. When I finish classes I return to the hostel, do my laundry, prepare for classes and study. As I’m being supported and living well, all I have to do is concentrate on my studies. Success is now possible — huge success. Before, I was doing well in class, but now I’m in the top five!

Nominated by our outgoing Head Girl and encouraged by my teachers, last term I ran for Head Girl. There was a big campaign and many candidates. Hundreds of votes were cast and, I could hardly believe it, but I received the most! So now I’m Head Girl of my school!

In the future, I want to be a teacher to uplift the youth, people with disabilities, widows and especially orphans in my community. Teaching is my passion and I have many role models at school. In my free time I teach the children in our neighborhood. To do this, makes my heart glad.

“In the future, I want to be a teacher to uplift the youth, people with disabilities, widows and especially orphans in my community.”

In previous generations it was said that to educate a girl was a waste of time. This, I cannot accept because when you educate a girl you educate a whole family, a community and a country.

Now Head Girl and near the top of her class, Desderia is thriving in her new school. She loves learning and is working hard towards her goal of becoming a teacher and a community activist. (Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed)

Camfed works with a network of thousands of Teacher Mentors like Madame Agnes all across Africa, who support vulnerable girls like Desderia at school and pay home visits to ensure they are safe. Teacher Mentors provide a vital link between schools, communities, and authorities.

When you support Camfed, you help to create holistic community networks around girls, ensuring they can reach their full potential. Join our movement today.

Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED)

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Breaking the cycle of poverty & inequality by educating girls & investing in young women's economic & leadership opportunities.

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