For most, university isn’t even an option. It’s difficult to imagine going to university when no one around you has been. Although Zambia has made commendable progress in increasing access to education, more than 250,000 children are still out of school. And for those lucky enough to go to school, only 4% will go on to higher education. This is the case with Emmanuel who was born in Dambwa Central, a particularly deprived area of Livingstone.
In 2007, at the age of just five, Emmanuel’s father tragically died and his mum soon after moved away to the Copperbelt to find work. Emanuel and his little sister were left under the care of his grandparents who he would spend the rest of his childhood with.
Education plays a crucial role in protecting children from abuse and exploitation, as well as helping to break down the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
As a double orphan, Emmanuel was enrolled on Play it Forward’s educational support programme, covering his school costs like term and exam fees, books and uniform. Without support like this, many children miss out on school completely.
In 2014, his uncle introduced him to a local football club called the Young Boys, who played on nothing more than a dusty patch of ground with a ball made out of plastic bags and string, known locally as a ‘Chimpombwa’. Emmanuel enjoyed the freedom of playing football and despite never having played before he managed to keep up with the other boys on the team.
It didn’t take long before Emanuel was awarded the golden boot for being the top scorer in his team. His success didn’t stop there.
As part of Play it Forward’s community outreach projects, Emmanuel along with twenty other young people were given training on how to educate other young people about social issues like domestic violence, child marriage, reproductive health and drug & alcohol abuse. These young community coaches now stand as important and influential role models in their communities, at the forefront of positive social change.
Play it Forward realised Emmanuel’s potential and that he was destined to go on to greater things. After years of hard work, he passed his grade 12 examinations at Mulwani school with flying colours and was given a glowing report from his teachers.
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Shortly after completing his final exams, challenging economic circumstances at home gave him no other option than to leave and work on his grandparents’ farm, leaving his much-loved football team in Livingstone.
Despite the challenges, the Play it Forward team were instrumental in helping him realise the importance of further education and how he could achieve his full potential. With the help of our education officers, Emmanuel secured a 75% scholarship to university and qualified for a bursary to help with living costs.
“I want to be a better person for my family and my football club, and I am looking forward to being more influential in my community when I return.”
Today we celebrate Emmanuel’s success as he starts his degree course at the prestigious University of Zambia studying Environmental Health Management. Looking ahead, Emmanuel has big aspirations of working in toxicology in environmental change programs.
In Zambia’s extremely unequal society, only the privileged few have the opportunity to complete secondary school and pursue higher education. Even for the brightest students from poor backgrounds, there exist few opportunities to thrive in education on merit alone.
With an education, individuals are enabled to live healthier, happier and longer lives. Adolescents like Emmanuel, can take control over their own destinies, contribute to decisions affecting their community and lift themselves and their countries out of poverty.
Emmanuel is the first player at Play it Forward to come through our development programmes and start university – and he certainly won’t be the last.
Good luck Emmanuel!