Domingas Gaudencia is a determined 16-year-old, twelfth grader at Escola Comunhao Arco Iris, our school in Pemba, Mozambique. She has been selected to participate in a summer exchange program with the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies in California along with three of her male peers. The four were chosen from an initial group of thirty-five students based on their age, English skills, and disposition. She had the highest score of all the thirty-five students!
Domingas' family is Christian and is where her spiritual foundation began. However, school was where Domingas really started to have a desire to pray from the heart. She said, “I saw the way they prayed and I loved it and started to do the same. Now, when I read the Bible I feel like Jesus is talking to me”.She shares how in 8th and 9th grade she was scared to step out and participate. Iris’ school encouraged her to develop her learning and communication skills, especially as a female student. Last year, Domingas and another student represented their school and the entire province in the nation’s capital, Maputo, in a Knowledge Bowl.
She initially studied enough English just to pass her English classes. Last year visitors from around the world came to her classroom and everything changed. They came to speak with the students and share their testimony. Domingas said, “I wanted to learn English so I could understand what they were saying.” Her goal is to be fluent in English. When asked how she stays focused in school, Domingas said, “Sometimes I feel really tired and very lazy so now I make a schedule. I tell myself ‘I have to do this’ and I put it on the wall so that it can remind me.”
Her father is a math teacher and her mother is a primary teacher. They are both her role models. Her family unit is a testimony in itself as many of our students come from broken homes or are orphaned or partially orphaned. After she graduates, Domingas wants to become a geological engineer. For now, she will continue her schooling and prepare for her trip to the U.S. “I’m really happy and glad. I can’t believe I’m going there. I can’t even say that this is a dream come true because I never dreamed of something like this. This is beyond my dreams!”
Education in Mozambique can be a different experience depending if you are a male or a female. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, the literacy rate for females is 28%, which is extremely low compared to the literacy rate for males which is 60%.
The same article explains that 95% of girls in Mozambique enroll in primary school but more than half drop out by the fifth grade. Unfortunately, the statistics continue on this downward trend and only 11% of girls continue on to study at the secondary level and just 1% continue on to college.
We refuse to accept this fate for the generations of students to come. Our Classroom Sponsorship Program was created to break this cycle and provide opportunities for both boys and girls to access the education they so desperately need. Domingas asks us to pray for all female students in Mozambique. “We’re very smart, but there are so many things that distract us from the things that are important. We are trying to do things that are not for our age and this makes us miss so many opportunities.” According to the UNFPA, by providing education to girls, we can reduce the number of child marriages, which decreases the number of child mothers. In a region where a girl receives seven or more years of education, the wedding date is delayed by an average of four years.
There are times when situations in life are hard to comprehend and they can feel hopeless. However, we must take time and celebrate all that God is doing!
The 7th of April was Dia da Mulher Mozambicana, a day when Mozambican women are celebrated. On this day, all women go out into the streets at 6 am and march wearing beautiful capulanas to demonstrate their loyalty and friendship to those close to them.
We celebrate Domingas and the many young Mozambican women who have pushed through beyond what is believed possible!