Mateke Rakojoana was raised by her mother alone and her mother worked very hard. When Mateke was in the final year of her free primary schooling, it was unclear whether or not she would be able to continue studying. Her mother would do whatever she could, but food was expensive. So was school.
Mateke’s teacher selected her as one of five vulnerable and gifted students from her primary school by her teacher to be sponsored by the Malealea Development Trust. The MDT sponsored the next five years of her secondary schooling, paying her school, book, and exam fees, and it was in secondary school that she fell in love with the machinations of business. She graduated from high school in 2007 and continued to college where she studied accounting and marketing. After earning her diploma, she taught business for a year, and then came to work for the Trust. She works as the MDT’s Project Coordinator and Scholarship Officer, holding the hands of vulnerable children like she once was through their continuing education.
Mateke is currently saving to go to university while she works. She once dreamed of being a bank teller, but now she isn’t so sure. Perhaps she will continue helping her community grow with her work at the MDT, or perhaps she will discover another passion. What she does know is that entertaining those different ideas is only possible because of the education she received.
Now she is giving these possibilities to a new generation. For vulnerable children, the MDT pays their school, book, and exam fees. For orphaned children, the MDT covers all of their fees as well as the cost of their uniforms.
Forty-four students attend the Malealea Secondary School. Twenty-two of those, fully half, are there because they are sponsored by the MDT. Without these scholarships, the school would be half its size, and those twenty-two kids would be at home. Instead, they are in the classroom surrounded by peers studying not only math, science, and English, but also advanced agricultural techniques, business skills, and development studies.
The students’ struggles are not over once they are able to attend school. These vulnerable children often struggle to complete their homework because they are occupied by home labor once they are finished the school day, or because they haven’t eaten and can’t focus.
Due to these challenges, some of the sponsored students struggle to maintain motivation. They do not know what a secondary education will help them to achieve, given the environment in which they grew up.
Mateke gathers them over their winter holidays in the community center, along with a host of other graduates who pursued radically different courses – business, medicine, law – and shows them that the life they know is not all that there is, and through their schooling they can discover more than they ever thought possible.
- Every donation of R1500 (just over US$100 or about €92) can help change a child’s entire life by sending them to school for another year