What inspired the Iringa – Johannesburg ride?

By Willhard Mboglea, IRUDI President

Malundi (not her real name), is a class V student at Isimani primary school, 44km from Iringa town. Students of her age are in class VII or form one in secondary school.

Malundi, wasn’t able to go to school at the age of 7, as the law requires, because during that time her mother was seriously ill due to the HIV pandemic and her father had already passed away. She had to stay at home to take care of her mother, who was now bedridden and terminally ill. Malundi spent two years at her mother’s bedside as she slowly gave in to the virus.

During this time, she was the one responsible to ensure her sick mother had food, imagine at only 7yrs, she had to go in the bush collect firewood and prepare dishes for her mother.

After the death of her mother, Malundi was taken from her village to go and live with her distant aunt in Isimani area. Here is when Malundi was finally enrolled in school at the age of 9.

Malundi has always been among best students in her class, despite the learning environment being not very friendly at her home. She, as many young girls do, still has loads of responsibilities at home. She has to help her aunt cook, collect firewood, fetch water and then, as a student, still find time for self-studies. Much of this is because of her aunt, also a widow, has to spend much time working in a local pub to support her family.

It was during one of our trips to her village, when we were able to donate 72 school bags to children, that I first met Malundi. Her class teacher had picked her as one of the beneficiaries of the donation and explained her story to me and how she is surprised by Malundi’s great academic performance. She is one of the best students in her class and has her dream to go for further studies after completing primary school studies.

While there we found out that she also has three distant cousins who are at the same school. Unfortunately, we were not able to support all three children from the same household, since there were many other needy children at that school. However, the Malundi story touched the hearts our team members and made our team go an extra mile by buying her new uniforms because her uniforms were broken.

It is sadly a common story in the areas we work. Young girls face an almost impossible daily struggle of balancing studies with the domestic chores and housework that is expected of them. I see struggles like this day in, day out, and while helping the few makes a difference, I know there is always more I can achieve.