Stories from the Field – Santidougou Widows Center

by Esther Shaeffer,
International worker in Burkina Faso

Making a difference for widows’ children

Being the youngest of four children, there wasn’t much hope that Hawa would be able to continue in school. After her father died, Hawa and her mother worked hard selling food on the side of the road to support the family. But the older siblings would have the priority for school.

When Hawa was in 7th grade, her mother was able to pay the first down payment of her school fees. Hawa enrolled and began to attend classes with her friends. But when the next payment came due, her mother could not come up with the funds. The school threatened to kick Hawa out if the money wasn’t paid. Her mother went to the school and begged for more time. But the next month she was only able to pay a small percentage. The school explained that they could not keep Hawa enrolled if the money wasn’t paid. Hawa’s mom knew that her daughter was a good student and would find it hard to sit at home while her friends went to school each day. And so Hawa’s mom showed up at our house to ask if there was any way we could help to pay the rest of her daughter’s schooling.

We listened to her words and prayed together. The next day, I made an appointment to visit the school and talked with the director. He assured me that Hawa was an excellent student but that the distraction of the unpaid bill made it hard for her to concentrate in class. We agreed to pay the rest of her fees. We also told Hawa that if she worked hard and had passing grades each trimester, we would sponsor her for the next year.

That was five years ago. At the end of each school year, Hawa and her mother come and show me her passing grades. It is a happy moment for all of us. And then we set a date for when we will go and enroll her for the following year. But this was the last year for me to do this for Hawa is now in her last year of high school and will soon sit for her final exams. We are so proud of this young woman who has stayed committed to Christ and committed to her studies.

The opportunity to have a high school education will make a huge difference for Hawa, but also for her family. It was one burden that was taken off her mother’s shoulders. Hawa also will be able to secure a better job since she has a high school diploma. Staying in school and focusing on studies has kept Hawa from wandering into the temptations that are prevalent for young women in a large city. Succeeding in school increases Hawa’s self-image and allows her to be an example to others.