Please Make Me Something

“Please, make me something.”
Not just the cry of an 18 year old girl, but the cry of a multitude of young women yearning to be “something” in a society that says they’re not.

It didn’t long for me to hear that Bongiwe started skipping some days at school. She didn’t hide the fact from me, but soon came to me explaining her situation. She said she had been living with a friend in Kakhoza and was kicked out of the house now and had nowhere to stay. Her home is in Siteki, a long way away, and she didn’t have money for transport. She has no father; her mother is sick with HIV and also has a partial mental disorder. Her brother lives in one of the MYC boys homes. Her situation at home is actually accurate; I talked to her older sister who lives in Siteki (a sister who is trying to work with me to keep Bongiwe in school). But the situation she told me about in KaKhoza was not. Soon, I found out it was not just a “friend” but a boyfriend. But Bongiwe had come to me to ask if I could get a place for her to live. I said there was no way I would pay for a place for her but we could try to work something out.

In the meantime, she still did not go to school. Also, a few of my students know Bongiwe and I found out a lot more information about her…that she was also a prostitute. When I asked Bongiwe about certain things, she finally told me the truth about her boyfriend but denied prostitution. She said the problem is that her boyfriend beats her and doesn’t want her to go to school; she wanted to leave him but couldn’t. So, I spoke with the social welfare representative from MYC to see if we could make room for Bongiwe to stay at the McKorkindale’s orphanage. THey were willing to negotiate and meet Bongiwe.

So, last week, I met Bongiwe and talked about school. My friend Michael came with because he knows Bongiwe as well and he scolded her for not going to school. We told her that the only way we would keep funding her education is if she came to live at the orphanage. We told her that it would not be easy, but that this is an opportunity to start a new life. She wouldn’t be able to go out at night, there would be no more drinking, sex, etc…she said she would do it. She said she wanted to go to school and she wanted a better life. She said she would meet me the following day in town to talk about details. I told her that I wanted her to follow through and meet me the following day to tell me her answer because I wanted her to think about the choice she was about to make. She promised she would come.

She never came. And in doing so gave me her answer…

It is so sad and something I do not understand. In fact, I just saw Bongiwe yesterday (Sunday) and talked to her about this. She had written me a letter and said, “There is nothing more to elaborate but to say I am sorry.” I told her that I was not paying for her school anymore. I told her that other girls would kill to have an opportunity like the one I gave her, but she threw it away. “Sorry, Mary-Kate,” she said.
“I am sorry for you, Bongiwe. This is YOUR life.”

Bongiwe chose a life of drunkenness, sex, and abuse over education, freedom, and a new start. WHY? Though I cannot imagine a good answer to this question, something happened last weekend (the story in the next blog) that made me understand this situation a lot more
And it rests in Bongiwe’s comment in the letter she wrote me that said,

“Mary-Kate, please make me something.”

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