Read the opinion of Ginie Servant-Miklos
The scholarship system is broken: this is how we can solve it
Exhibition organizations take the support of the people who need this support the most …
After reading the article, I thought I understood why an underprivileged Zimbabwean student from a township would be a better choice for a scholarship than a more privileged student. I was thinking about poverty, lack of access to libraries or books, maybe a ruined home. But Tinash’s story is much more complex than that. She had to deal with more setbacks than I could have ever imagined. It is a story of abuse, sacrifice, financial hardship, risky border crossings, but also karate, courage and perseverance.
Zimbabwe’s Beverly Hills
Tinashe, now 23, calls me from her office. She recently got her first official job as an administrative assistant at a private school in what she calls ‘Beverly Hills of Zimbabwe’. This school for the rich kids does not pay much. “I can pay the rent and my food with it, but then it’s gone.”
She grew up on a mission in Murewa, a township 70 kilometers east of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Her father was a teacher at the mission station. From an early age she wanted to practice karate. First because it was fun. Later ‘to protect myself and my mother from my father’. Her high school taught karate, funded by FairFight, an NGO founded in 2015 by Servant-Miklos and EUC colleague Alexander Whitcomb. Karate changed Tinache’s life.
“Karate means so much to me. At home I had no rest. I was always afraid to say something that I would be yelled at or that I would be beaten. I did not really understand what the family meant until I started practicing karate. We really took care of each other. I suddenly had a safe place where I could be myself, and I had nowhere to hide. ”
Initially, she hid karate for her father, who like many Zimbabwean parents was very suspicious of female martial arts. Tinashe says, “He did not want me to play sports because it could distract me from my school work.” But Tinashe soon could not hide it anymore. After just six months of training, she participated in a national tournament in Harare and won gold in the category Kumite (sparring). She was selected to the national team to participate in international tournaments. In 2017, she won a bronze medal at the All Africa Games Zone 6 tournament and in 2018, she won two gold medals at the Kofukan Tri-Nations tournament in Durban, South Africa. Her success enabled her to continue training in Harare, staying with her sister and avoiding her father for a while.
Problems in the home
After graduating from high school, she enrolled in public administration studies at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. A deep sigh: “And that was where the problems really started.” In Zimbabwe, high school ends in December, while university does not start until August of the following year: “So you have to wait more than half a year before you can start studying.”
That meant she had to return home and live in a small house with her parents and brother. “It was right all terrible. I could hear every argument even if it was in a different room. My father was very cruel to my mother. As a child, you do not want to interfere, but you are just there when everything happens. “I heard my father say he had found a ‘better wife’ and how he called my mother ‘a weak person’ because she was ill.”
The situation escalated to the point where her father no longer had food to take home. “My mother and I worked as maids so we could buy food. My mother was still cooking for him and trying to persuade him not to run away. But my father did not change. One day I saw him beat my mother. I asked him why he did it and he said, “Because she’s weak.” I got so mad that I beat him. I still do not know where I got the power from. He’s big and I’m small. I knocked two teeth out of his mouth. I dragged my mother and we ran. ”
Selling fish in South Africa
Tinashe is still very proud of that moment, but it also caused her a lot of problems, especially financially. She asked for forgiveness (“I did not mean it, but I wanted him to pay my tuition”). He called her names and even suggested that she prostitute herself to pay for college. “That was when I realized I had to take matters into my own hands. I could not give up. “
She moved in with her aunt in South Africa, Zimbabwe’s southern neighbor. “She gave me money to start a business and sell fish. I woke up every morning at three o’clock, went into the woods to look for firewood, lit fires and cleaned my fish, dipped it in flour and spices and baked it. Then I took to the nearest village and sold the fried fish. ”
In two months, she had saved enough money up until the first semester of college teaching. “I went back to Zimbabwe and paid for tuition, but I had nowhere to sleep. So I visited my sister, but it meant walking 15 miles from home to college and back every day. It was very difficult.” Her sister gave her only one meal a day, in the evening.To buy more food, Tinashe had to work as a maid on the weekends.
Helps a student in a wheelchair
“It simply came to our notice then. Then I heard about a program at the university that would help students with disabilities, and the university would pay you housing and three meals a day. ” She got a job as a disability counselor for a student in a wheelchair. “You should know that the University of Zimbabwe is built on a hill. So I pushed one up that weighed about 100 kilos. Later I had to go down again, so I let go of the wheelchair and made sure it did not bump into anything.”
She had to sacrifice most of her social and study time for this student. “I had to be with him all the time, except when he was sleeping. I also had to clean his room, wash his laundry, help with papers, go to church with him. I had to do whatever he wanted, otherwise he would drop me and I would have nothing left. It took me so hard that I failed two modules in my first semester. ”
Meanwhile, her mother’s health deteriorated, who only had her children to take care of her and pay for her medical expenses. She then contacted FairFight, Servant-Miklos’ NGO. “They offered to help. That meant I could not take care of this student, focus on my studies and braid people’s hair or clean to save money for the food and my mother. Thanks to FairFight, I also got “A mentor, a laptop and a phone. My grades improved and I passed most subjects, but it was difficult: the academic world is completely new to someone like me.”
Everything ran smoothly. “Until 2020, when Covid-19 hit.”
“All sorts of ways to generate income dried up. And I still had to help my mother. She was not well; she has serious mental problems. When the shutdowns were announced and the borders were closed, I discussed with my mentor that it would be better to sit outside lockdowns in South Africa.There I could get a job and I wanted fast internet for distance learning.I got on the last bus to South Africa before the borders closed.It was 11.30pm when I got to the border, with huge queues of people waiting to enter, 30 minutes before they closed. I made it, but had to spend the night in a kind of refugee camp with other women on the other side of the border. The next morning I made the long and dangerous journey to where my aunt bor. ” When she was first there, she found a job as a craftsman in a shop and was able to do her schoolwork from a distance. It went well for a few months, but then “out of the blue the university announced that we were going back to Zimbabwe for examination “. With closed borders and mandatory quarantine in public facilities for those who returned, it was impossible for her to come to Harare in time for the examination if she followed official procedures.
Material for a film
There was no easy solution, but missing the exams would mean that the whole year had been for nothing. For her own safety, the details of this part of her story have been omitted, but we certainly do not exaggerate when we say that it would be good material for a film. Eventually she took some big risks, but she was able to pass her exams and passed sixes and sevens in all subjects.
In 2020, Servant-Miklos Tinashe helped her apply for an Erasmus Mundus scholarship for a master’s degree in Educational Governance. “In Zimbabwe, people are listening to graduates from European universities, so a master’s degree would be a great way to change the education system in Zimbabwe.” Education is relatively expensive in Zimbabwe and it is even more under covid as people’s incomes continue to devalue due to hyperinflation while the cost of distance learning continues to rise. “Students must pay $ 5 per hour data bundles for Zoom lessons.”
The average salary for a teacher is about $ 250 a month. “Even they can not afford to teach their children. That is why I really want a scholarship. It is not only for me but also to change education in Zimbabwe. I will try to get people in Zimbabwe to look at it differently. the situation of underprivileged people, to offer them affordable education or even better for free. “
New hope in Estonia
Her application was rejected, but there is still hope. Tinashe may now perhaps go to Estonia and take a master’s degree there, with financial support from a private donor. “My uncle lives there and he has always been one of the few who has contacted me.” For now, she’s happy to be a “much better place than I’ve been in the last five years.” “I now have an education, I have money, and I have a house. It’s just an ugly cottage, but it’s a house.” She can dream of a better future. “I want to write books about my life. My mother’s life. Life in Zimbabwe. “