Mojo’s education ended abruptly when she was just eight years old. She had few prospects other than marriage at a very young age. But as Susan Martinez explains, one kind gesture has helped turn Mojo’s life around, with a ripple effect in the community.
Mojo was just a young girl when she gave up on her only dream. Every morning, she watched her brother Paul get ready for school and make his way to class from their uncle's house. Meanwhile, Mojo stayed home, her hopes of getting an education apparently dashed forever.
Mojo’s life in Karamoja, northern Uganda, was similar to that of many girls in the area, born into traditions that prevent them from attending school. At the age of eight, her relatives stopped paying her school fees. Money was tight, and what funds there were went on educating Paul.
Meanwhile, Mojo helped with jobs around the home, sweeping the floor, cooking dinner, and helping her uncle with odd jobs. When she had time, she would borrow books and try to teach herself, but with each day, her hopes of returning to school faded.
Today, Mojo is a changed person. Tall and playful, the fourteen-year-old giggles as she has her picture taken. Her confident smile is a mark of the sense of fulfillment and happiness that she exudes.
The past seems a world away from Mojo’s present, where she is a proud pupil at a local primary school in Moroto. It’s a change that began when her story was featured in a VSO fundraising campaign in 2017. Among the people touched by her story was a VSO volunteer from the Philippines, Janice Ann Perez.
A seasoned teacher, Janice heard about Mojo’s struggle while she was volunteering with VSO as a teacher trainer in Karamoja. Inspired by Mojo’s longing for education, Janice made a decision that changed Mojo’s life forever, offering to contribute towards her school expenses.
A new life
“The most important thing that the school has taught me is that if you marry early you will suffer, but if you study you will not suffer.”
With the donation from Janice, Mojo was able to pay for school fees and school uniforms for the first time in five years. For the first time since dropping out aged eight, Mojo took her seat in a classroom.
Today, school feels like the cosiest place on earth.
“At school there are good people,” says Mojo. “Here, they teach me about knowledge, they teach about education, they teach so many things. In our classroom I feel happy.”
At 14, Mojo’s favourite subjects remain maths and science: “If you know maths, you know how to run a shop, you know how to count money, and you can work in places like the bank. It’s very useful. But ideally, when I grow up, I want to be a nurse because I like to help people.”
But Mojo's education has not just had an impact on her, it’s also changed attitudes within her family:
“The first time I learned information about personal hygiene was in school. When I came back home I told my family and they were happy to get that knowledge. After that, the people who had said ‘no’ to me going to school, started saying that it was good to stop early marriages because it is better to take a girl to school.”
Mojo’s passion for education radiates with such intensity that it is changing behaviours and traditions even outside her family. The message she exemplifies is that education is not just for boys; it is just as valuable for girls.
Mojo herself is aware of the effect her example is having on the people she meets: “Before, people would just look at me like I wasn’t even worth talking [to]. They wanted to get cows from me [as a bride price], so they didn’t want me to go to school. Then, after going to school, I ended up teaching them, and they changed! Now, they pay attention to me.
“Now, the people that didn’t want me to go to school tell me to work hard. Now they are even bringing their children to school because they have seen what education does. They see me. Three years ago I was sad because I was afraid I was going to be married early. Now I’m going to school and will become someone important.”
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