“One day I’ll return as a doctor”
This is Catherine Chasuka’s dream: working as a general practitioner at the KIUMA Hospital. Catherine is one of the few girls in the Tunduru District who has the chance to attend secondary school. Once she has passed her final exams successfully the way is open for her to study at university.
Whilst attending celebrations at the KIUMA site, 20-year old Catherine spiritedly promoted the idea to recognize and use the chance of being taught and trained at KIUMA. “Look! Here are girls and boys in equal numbers! This is an exception in our country’s schools!” she says.
Encouragement for fellow pupils
No matter whether pupils of middle or upper level, vocational trainees or soon-to-be hospital or care nurses– here in particular the girls – she encouraged all of them: “Do the best you can during your training and then make a contribution to help changing living conditions, in particular in the south of Tanzania, for the better.”
Catherine was born in 1993 in the Rukwa region, a three-day trip west of KIUMA, as the youngest of eight children. All siblings attended the primary school of the village until the seventh year. The class sizes were 50 pupils and more, who at best were taught by two teachers. Back then, Catherine’s motivation for learning was not exactly overwhelming. After all, she was growing up in an environment, which conveyed to her: “Education for girls is of lower priority and must not be taken too seriously.” Hence, it was not really a coincidence that her four brothers stayed on at secondary school until they passed their GCSEs, whilst her three sisters were married off once they had completed the seventh year.
Grateful to her parents
Relatives had told her of the school in KIUMA. Her parents accepted her wish to continue her school education after the seventh class. This was by no means a matter of course as they themselves hardly had any school education when they were young; nowadays they try to make a living as smallholders. However, they have recognised that their traditional way of living is no longer in keeping with the times.
Cast off traditional habits
Catherine’s personal school career and her determination to promote education reflect a development, which can also be observed at District level: in 2011, about 600 political representatives of the region drew up a declaration on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of KIUMA. It says among other: We want to “cast off traditional habits according to which women are denied the opportunity to participate in a social and economic development … to ensure that girls have the same chances as boys to get an education, instead of being married off at a young age”.
This is exactly what Catherine wants to realize once she has passed her exams. She wants to study medicine and to return to KIUMA later. Not only would she be very welcome at the local hospital, but she would also be urgently needed.