My name is Rachel Edwin Banda and I am the second born in a family of three children. I used to live in Iringa Region with my family, but now I am in the Arusha Region where I work as a Mentor for AfricAid’s Binti Shupavu program.
I was a Kisa Scholar in my last two years of school (Form 5 and 6) at Cornerstone Leadership Academy. But, the path to get there was not easy and I worked very hard to get into Form 5. I sat for my exams three times and it took me three years to get enough credit points to continue my secondary school education in advanced level. I was so discouraged when I found my results were not good enough to continue to A-Level. I was still living at home with my mother and brother and I felt they were really disappointed in me. It seemed like the whole world saw me as a loser. I convinced my mom that I should retake the exam (twice, in order to get enough points to enter a school of high caliber, such as Cornerstone) and she agreed to help with the fee. My whole family was so happy when I joined Form 5. I was determined.
In 2014, soon after finishing A-Level studies, I sent my application form to the Tanzania Commission for Universities, which is the organization we use for college admissions and placement. I chose three different locations and majors, but was selected to join the University of Dodoma to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies (BADS). I arranged to change majors because I knew I wanted to study education. My mother and uncle are also teachers and they have always inspired me. Also, the experience of not performing well on my Form 4 exams pushed me to want to help other students perform better in their studies. I was determined.
I found university life to be very challenging – not only the work load, but just getting by without a government loan. In Tanzania, both girls and boys who have gone to Private Schools, such as Cornerstone where I had a private scholarship, find it hard to get government loans. I managed to survive my first year at college with the little money I had from my parents and support from my friends, especially Shukrani and Vaileth, who were my Kisa Scholar friends. (Shukrani and her family are pictured above at our graduation and Vaileth, who was also at Cornerstone with me, is currently another Binti Shupavu Mentor with me!) I had to budget carefully for meals and accommodation. I appealed to the government and was grateful to finally get a loan for Years 2 and 3. Cornerstone helped me to communicate with the authorities to receive financial support. I was determined.
I found the experience with my practical work as a teacher during my second and third year of study to be very useful. I student taught Forms 1 and 3 at Mazoezi Klerruu Secondary School. It reinforced my ideas about becoming a secondary school teacher and, finally, I knew I was doing what I wanted to do professionally. I was determined.
During university, volunteering to give back to the community was very important to me. Shukrani, Vaileth and I committed ourselves to mentoring girls at a local secondary school, Ng’ong’ona. We taught them about the effects of alcohol, HIV/AIDS and the importance of delaying sex. This was information that we gained directly from Unit 6 of our Kisa Curriculum, which focuses on good decision making. In fact, we had done a similar outreach project with our “Leadership Immersion” in Year Two of Kisa (this was the forerunner to the current “2 Day Challenge.”) Once again, these experiences helped me to understand that I want to spend my career with youth. I was determined.
When I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Education Management and Administration from University of Dodoma in 2017, I felt special, happy and grateful. I had reached my goal to obtain a university degree. The Kisa program really helped me to achieve my dream. It taught me about relationships, about budgeting, about sticking with a goal and about the important things in life. I met special friends in college who were also Kisa graduates and we stuck by each other. Now I feel I have grown enough to actually start my own life. The experience and skills I am getting as a Binti Shupavu Mentor will help me reach my next goal of working as a secondary school teacher. The Binti Shupavu program is so useful, I wish it could be offered in every Tanzanian region so that every young girl – and more Mentors like me – could benefit from it.
I am determined!