Friday Kaina is an 18-year-old secondary school student in Zambia who lives near Barrick’s Lumwana copper mine. He wants to be a doctor, but the cost of tuition and a school uniform almost derailed his dream before he could even begin to pursue it.
Kaina’s parents are maize farmers and the produce they sell is barely enough to keep Kaina and his six siblings afloat; secondary school tuition fees, ranging from $75 to $150 per term in a threeterm year, dim the prospects of staying in school. The Kaina family’s predicament is far from unique. In a country where the gross domestic product per capita is $1,700 annually, and far lower in communities around Lumwana, school fees are an onerous sum for most families.
However, Kaina’s strong academic performance granted him access to Barrick’s merit-based scholarship program, which supports secondary school students with similar access-to-education challenges.
“I was faced with having to drop out of school because my parents could not afford my education, so I started working on my neighbors’ farms to raise money for tuition,” says Kaina. “The scholarship program has given me an opportunity to study without having to worry about working to pay for school.”
The scholarship covers room and board, along with class materials and meals. It also covers school uniforms, which cost more than $90.
Family finances aren’t the only barrier to education in Zambia. Overcrowded classrooms with teacher-student ratios as high as 1:100 present another problem, says Joseph Pyele, Barrick Lumwana’s Community Education Support Officer. To find schools that can accommodate them, many students are forced to travel to schools as far as 400 kilometers away and live on their own in densely populated shanty towns with no electricity and poor sanitation.
The scholarship program began in 2009 and currently supports 143 students. It is available to students whose parents do not work for Barrick Lumwana and who live in the mine’s three host communities.
To receive a scholarship, students must pass boarding school entrance exams and score well on an aptitude test, and then maintain a high average to retain the scholarship. Scholarship qualifications and disbursements are granted on an annual basis.
“I achieved very good results on my grade nine examinations and I was selected for the scholarship program that Lumwana had introduced at the school,” says Kaina, who has been involved with the program for one and a half years.
Brenda Liswaniso, Barrick Lumwana’s Sustainability Manager, says Barrick started the scholarship program because the company believes it’s important to find ways to help students stay in school. Through this scholarship, Barrick wants to encourage students to secure better results and get into college so they can participate in local economic activity, Liswaniso says.
Kaina says he still plans to become a doctor after he graduates. “I am good in science and want to help people,” he says. “I want to help fight against the diseases that burden my district in recognition of what it has done for me.”