Unwrap Potential Series: Education
Veronica Zulu was in Grade 9, earning high marks and on a path to graduate high school. She was following in the footsteps of her two older sisters, who had both graduated from high school, with the dream of one day becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, all of that changed when her father suddenly passed away in 2020.
Veronica Zulu, center with sweater, listens in one of her classes.
Veronica was living with her father at the time, after being divorced from her mother in 2007, and she would only visit her mother once a year. Now that her father had passed, she moved in with her mother, and Veronica’s mother wasn’t able to pay for Veronica’s school fees anymore. It seemed her path had been blocked, and all of Veronica’s potential seemed like it may never be unwrapped.
Veronica Zulu sits on her hostel bed she sleeps on while at school.
In October of 2021, The Sonder Project held an open meeting for high school dropouts from Veronica’s mother’s home community. We were seeking potential students to sponsor to return to school, and we wanted to assess interest in the program. Veronica was one of about 20 other students who showed up that day. As our CEO, Chad Zibelman, recollected, “we went around the room and asked each student why they dropped out of school. One by one, students took turns introducing themselves and explaining their reason for dropping out. Almost every single one identified school fees as the reason they had dropped out. It was depressing, but it was also inspiring because we felt like we could help.”
Veronica with her hand raised, ready to ask one of her teacher’s questions.
Veronica went home that day, hopeful something would come of the meeting. Otherwise, “I saw myself having a failed future.”
Fortunately, a few weeks later, The Sonder Project’s Country Director, Beria Michembo, returned to the community and announced we would conduct interviews with potential sponsored candidates. Veronica was one of 50 high school students selected at the time.
Veronica Zulu sits with a group of friends along with two of The Sonder Project staff members in Malawi during a break period.
A year after initially meeting Veronica, out of school and uncertain of her future, Veronica had her confidence back. She walked us around her school and the hostel where she sleeps. She took us through the library, where she could check out books. She showed us the fields where she takes a break to play netball, a popular sport in Malawi, and the cafeteria where she takes her meals and watches her favorite television drama called “Star Life.”She tells us how “The Sonder Project helped me to believe in myself again.”
As she should. Veronica, like so many students in our partner countries, simply needs a little support to unwrap her incredible potential.
Veronica is just one of the over 150 students The Sonder Project currently sponsors across Malawi and Burkina Faso. Consider donating to The Sonder Project this holiday season and help us unwrap the potential for more students like Veronica.
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