These are the stories of two Batwa secondary students we recently filmed. As you can see, it can take many years for students to matriculate, and so while they look older they really are in high school. We filmed several students, but these two stories captivated me. We take going to school for granted - free education, ample food to sustain us, parents to encourage us. But these students have little of what we would consider basic necessities when they consider school. We are hoping to help 40 secondary students this September... We are trying to assist them in raising funds for school fees, uniforms, books, etc. But we are also hoping to rent some homes where they can live together and have the support of some adults, from one another, as well as access to electricity so they can study and food to fill their stomachs.
So let me introduce Jean Baptiste and Diana. Claude translated their stories for me, and I pass that on to you.
What is surprising is that the Batwa students are always among the first in school, top of their class. They work hard to overcome their difficulties. So the question is why don't we stay in school? The answer: we come from very poor families. It is hard to get enough money for school fees, books and food. Then you come home after school, there is no food to eat. And even when you get books, keeping them dry becomes a problem in this situation. We grew up seeing our parents make pots and sell them for a living but today you just can't sell pots in a world where China has invaded us with cheap plastic pots. We have no market for our pots and therefore no future for our parents, no future for us.
So the idea of having home for the Batwa students where we could live and be supported is like a dream to me. In September the school year will begin, but we don't see were the school books will come from, or the uniforms to wear to school or the money for the school fees... When I talk with fellow Batwa students, my friends, I hear them say "The way things look at home right now, I don't think I will be in school this coming year."
So my request to you, friends, is that you help us if you can. We need books, school fees, uniforms and, if possible, housing for the students. I really think a home for us would be vital because not only will we be together to support each other but we would have you who love us. We will have food - because it is hard to go to school if you haven't eaten for 3 days.
What I share is the challenge that Batwa women students face. Because of the extreme poverty, we are pressured to get married and start a family instead of going to school. Going to a husband becomes the solution that our parents have for us as women. So as much as you want to go to school, as much as you realize that education is your way out, the pressure from home and neighbors is so strong that more and more women decide to give up. We try to teach others and encourage them to stay in school but when you hear some of their stories, it is hard to know what else to do. We need your help.