There is a young woman here, Emma (not her real name) whom I have know since 2008. She is part of CSC (Child support center). She recently dropped out of secondary school…she was failing her classes. She does not want to go back to school and, instead, got a job in a salon, sweeping, cleaning and shampooing. She has 8 brothers and sisters and needs this $65 a month (YES, $65 a month) for her family.
The staff at csc have talked to her many times about staying in school. William, a part of Hope Shines here in Rwanda, has talked to her, too. But she is resolute. Hope Shines fund-raises in the US to pay for all 50 of the CSC kids’ school fees. So, money isn’t the issue. She’s been made to feel dumb in the classroom and has given up. She’s been offered paid tutors and still she refuses. She says she’s done w/ school…academic school that is. I sat down yesterday and talked to her about her decision to drop out of school to be a hairdresser. She said she doesn’t need any formal training (like vocational school) and can just learn on the job.
I told her about my dear friend who was told she wasn’t smart in high school; not smart enough in math or for college. Her confidence was shaken and she didn’t believe in herself…how can u when a teacher tells u as such? She decided to got to cosmetology school and began to shine!
This experience gave her the confidence boost she needed. I recall her mom telling me how she was made to feel so awful in the classroom in high school but was finding out just how smart she really was at being creative, understanding lines, memorizing techniques, color-mixing theory etc. She was a model student!
From this, she realized her potential and set the goal of going to college for Interior Design (that’s a lot of math and visualization, creativity, geometry, and understanding building construction). It’s a hard curriculum. This was a major step forward for her, especially since it was her math teacher who told her she couldn’t do anything right. Yet, w/ her new found confidence, she got into a great college and thrived. She is now a successful Interior Designer.
I told his story to Emma. She listened w/ tears in her eyes. I told her how terrible it can feel when someone tells you, you aren’t smart enough. I asked her if she’d like to attend vocational school (after much convo about trying to graduate secondary school, to no avail.) so that she can be a certified hairdresser – make more money, support herself etc etc. Hope Shines will pay for it. She said she didn’t need the certificate…b/c some friend told her she didn’t. Oddly, this friend has the certificate and makes a lot more money than Emma. I told her otherwise and that she is smart and a hard worker. I told her we all believe in her and know she can succeed. I told her not to fear the classroom and to dedicate herself to learning this skill b/c it will take her far. I told that this will give her the confidence she needs to believe in herself again.
She agreed and will start hair school in the next term. She agreed to dedicate her heart and mind towards succeeding. She gave me one of the biggest hugs I’ve ever received. 10 of them over the next few hours during the kids Christmas party!
We have to be elastic when dealing w/ our kids talents, needs, wants and realities. Not every child/young adult is the same. The reality for Emma is that she failed out of school and felt she had no options but to take an entry level job at a salon. She discovered she’s good at hairdressing and is now motivated to take it further. She just needed to feel supported and know we believe in her.
I want for our kids to be successful in life and to be able to earn a living. We drive home the idea that they NEED an education to get a job. Emma will receive an education, albeit not the traditional academic one, but one from a vocational school.
Vocational school is still school, she’s still learning and she still has to apply her mind. I am proud of her decision to get certified and to work towards a better future for herself. I am most proud that we can help her do it.
For the Hope Shines Team,
Executive Director and Founder
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