“It’s Not My Fault”
After teaching yesterday, one of my students came to me at break time and said her friend was sick. So I went back to the classroom to find Fungile lying on her desk, with her head buried in the crease of her elbow.
“Unani sisi?” I asked. (What’s wrong?)
She didn’t respond.
“Uyagula yini?” (Are you sick?)
She nodded her head, but kept it hidden. She had been sleeping during class and had been sick last week, but the head teacher would not let her go home.
“Fungile,” I gently shook her shoulder, “Fungile, can you look at me for a second?”
“Miss Kates,” Nolwazy, Fungile’s close friend, addressed me, “she’s crying.” Crying in front of someone, especially a teacher, is something they are ashamed of, so that’s why she wouldn’t look at me. “She’s crying and wants to go home. Talk to teacha so she can go home.”
“Do you want to go home?” I asked Fungile. She shook her head yes.
So I went and talked to the teacher and told him she really needed to leave. He approved and so I walked with her to the clinic to see the nurse and got her on a kombi (van) to go home.
But Fungile being sick in class reminded me that I had not seen another student, Mbali, for an entire week now. “Is Mbali sick, too?” I asked the group of girls. They shrugged their shoulders.
“She hasn’t been here all week. Do you know what’s wrong?”
The head teacher didn’t know either.
“Where does she live?” I asked.
“In Moneni…by Thulile,” Nolwazy answered.
I called Thulile over and prodded her about Mbali.
“Oh…no…she’s not sick…” she avoided eye contact with me.
“Then what’s wrong?”
“Uh…she has a problem, Miss Kates.”
She paused, scanned the room to see if anyone was looking and answered, “Um…she’s pregnant.”
My heart sank. She’s only 16. Thulile told me she was scared, and I can understand why. So, I asked Thulile to bring me to Mbali.
That afternoon, Thulile met me at Mangwaneni Care Point. I brought my Swazi friend Titi and we journeyed out on a long walk to Moneni. When we met Mbali, I took her aside and talked to her for a long time. At first she was quite upset I knew that she was pregnant. She said nobody was supposed to tell and that only a few teachers from the school knew about it. But once I told her that she can trust me and that I can help her, she softened up quite a bit. She told me that the headmaster asked her to leave school because she is nearly 5 months pregnant. I couldn’t tell because even as I talked to her she was wearing a big, baggy shirt. But what she told me broke my heart.
“The teachas, they say I can still take exams because it wasn’t my fault.”
“It wasn’t my fault,” she kept saying. “He raped me. And the boy, he in jail now.”
I couldn’t believe it. I cannot imagine this 16 year old being raped and now carrying a child. She lives with her sister…she has parents but they live somewhere else. But she has no support. She has no help. I asked her what she was going to do with the baby and she said “leave it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, after February (when she is due) I can go back to school. I will give the baby to my parents.”
“Are they going to keep the baby?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know.”
I gave her my cell number and told her that if she ever needs anything she should call me. I told her she needs someone to walk her through this and that I can be there for her or take her to the doctor or whatnot. But do you know she was worried about the most? It wasn’t that she was pregnant or that she was raped…it was that she couldn’t be in school…she was worried about exams. “Can you call me when it’s time for exams because I want to move on to grade seven,” she told me.
Education is so so so important to them…because what else do they have? So, I am arranging exercises and homework sheets and things to give to Thulile to bring to Mbali. I also told her I would come back and check on her again.
This all happened after meeting Tenele and two other friends earlier that day. More on Tenele in another blog…but basically I have a had a rough couple days and I cried really hard last night about it all. I cried for Mbali, for Tenele, for girls like them, and I cried because though I am in a position to help them, I feel so helpless. The questions keep looming…what do I do, what do I do? How can I help? But as I journaled about it last night, a song by Casting Crowns came on and it reminded me that the best thing I can do is…
“Love them like Jesus. Carry them to Him. His yoke is easy; his burden is light. You don’t need the answers to all of life’s questions. Just know that he loves them. Stay by their side. Love them like Jesus.”