from Wendy Muckle, February 2nd, 2016
Today is the worst day of the year - orphan selection day. This is the day when our group meets to review the marks of all the group’s children who are eligible to proceed to secondary school. That list is supplemented by “requests” - children from the community who are deserving of an education but not already part of our group. Their names are put forward by the school, the local leaders and their families. This year we have 25 names to consider plus five more requests which have come directly to me.
The criteria for eligibility is tough - although we would like for every child who is eligible to go to school, we simply don’t have enough money. This year is especially hard with a weak Canadian dollar. Our purchasing power is 30% less than previous years. The other factor to consider are the 19 children who wrote their final secondary school exams and awaiting results. We know that many of these children will qualify for university and we don’t want to have to refuse them after they have worked so hard for us since primary school.
It’s truly a “Sophie’s Choice” while we debate whether a girl who barely made the cut but is a total orphan is more deserving than a brighter child from a very poor family where both parents are alive but unable to provide for their family. The lack of paraffin and food are factored into the discussions and we try our best to predict who will bring the greatest benefit to the community from the investment of education. It is heart wrenching and I always have a pounding headache by the end. And then there are the guardians lined up outside wanting to talk to us directly to beg us for a chance at education for their child. The pain of explaining why their child will not be going to school is compounded by their polite response and their thanks for what we are doing for the community.
This year, although we can really only afford to send eight children to secondary school we accept twelve. Tomorrow we will get the letters telling us which schools have accepted our students and the race will be on to get all the shopping done and the child in school. And, while I love the excitement and possibility of the form ones at the beginning of the school year - it is impossible not to remember the quiet defeat of the grandfather in dusty clothes whose grandson we did not take to school. Every child deserves the chance for education and I dream of the day when there is no orphan selection day but, where every child who qualifies knows with certainty that they can go to school.