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Emmanuel and Atupele

For Emmanuel and Atupele, this project brought about a glimmer of hope for the future. 

For teenagers like Emmanuel, 16, the battle to the classroom has not been an easy one, and has cost him a lot.

"My father would beat me when I said I wanted to go to school. Even my own mother was not giving me food because I was making this decision. It got so bad that they chased me out of the house and said I should go somewhere else to live. I had to fight them on this issue for 2 years. My life was so hard. All I wanted was an education so I could change things for us"

Instead of attending school, Emmanuel was forced to work on his father's land, grazing cattle, and watching on as his friends continued their schooling unhindered. The other children in his village mocked him, and for a year and a half he didn't go to school at all.

Emmanuel's classmate, Atupele, 12, also knows only too well the pain of having to fight her own parents for the right to her future.

"My mum said school is not important and I should stop going. She wanted me to sell tomatoes with her instead. When I told her I wanted an education so I could become a nurse, life changed a lot at home. My parents used to chase me out and not give me food because I wanted to be at school. They were angry with me. They wanted me to be at home caring for my younger brothers and sisters and would create jobs for me to do instead."

"One time when I had an exam, they made me stay at home fetching water and bathing the children instead of progressing my education. When my mum came home and learned that I had not gone to school to sit my exam she bought me new shoes as a thank you. I know she wanted me to get married and that is the reason she didn't want me to sit my exams."

"I was failing at school and I was very angry and sad. I was dragging behind because of my parents."

Fortunately for Emmanuel and Atupele, this project brought about a glimmer of hope for the future. They heard about the mother and father groups and their role in helping to educate families, manage conflict and speak up for young people. who feel unable to challenge the status quo.

Emmanuel said: "I heard about the mother and father groups and I approached them to tell them what I was going through. When my parents were not providing for me, they gave me food to eat, water to bathe, and they got involved in my situation. They explained to my parents why education is important. It wasn't just my voice any more."

Atupele also found the much-needed support that she had been lacking.

"The mother and father group went with me to my parents and told them what they were doing was an abuse to the child. They said it's child labour and you are spoiling the future of your child, she should be in school."

Both Emmanuel and Atupele's parents were warned that if they did not allow their children to return to school, they would be liable to fines or police intervention. Emmanuel believes this is what encouraged his parents to finally start paying attention.

"My father was afraid of the by-law so he agreed to let me go to school. The whole process took 1 year and 3 months. It was not easy but the mother and father groups played a great role."

Another key part of Tearfund's project is 'Life and Skills Clubs' in schools, where young people are educated and equipped to take ownership of their future and pointed towards support which can help them put this into practice. This is what led Atupele to her mother and father group.

"I learned about my rights in a club in school called 'Life Skills'. They trained me and I saw the benefits of having an education and knowing my rights. I told my mum I had learned that I have a right to education. It was at the Life Skills club that I heard about the mother and father group and how they could help me explain this properly to my parents and make them listen. It was a relief for me not to be on my own."

Both of the youngsters are now back in school after intensive support from the project.

At particularly difficult times during the process, Atupele's mother and father group would turn up at the family home every morning to ensure she was allowed to make the journey to school.

Because of this support, Atupele feels like her whole life has been turned around.

"I am an empowered girl who can make informed decisions. At this time my parents are transformed. I am even telling them now what I am learning at school and in the life skills club. I am very happy because I'm not seeing any problems in my life. My goal now is to become a nurse. I would be very happy to help this community."

Emmanuel is also flourishing at school, and has high hopes for his future.

"I would like to become a medical doctor. I like Science, Maths and English. Or I would like to protect people, like the young ones, from child labour and child abuse. I want to be a role model to other young people in the community."

His parents have also gradually come to accept this is a better path for their son.

Emmaunuel's mother explained: "We were stopping the boy from going to school. He was insisting and we were saying no. We wanted him to be able to make money to meet his basic needs. We told him that if he went to school then we couldn't assist him."

"After he went to the mother and father group, they came to this household and counselled us about the importance of education. They said he was missing a lot at school. We wouldn't listen at first but little by little we understood and released Emmanuel to go to school."

His father added: "We want our boy to be educated and get a good job so that he will be a good role model. We stopped him going to school but here he is, and now I tell other people they should also stop this child labour. I would like to see him become an MP because then he would have powers and be able to use them to send every child to go to school so that no-one will miss their education."

"It's like an eye-opener to realise the importance of education. We used to think the cattle were more important than sending our child to school."

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