In a round, one-room hut, 13-year-old orphan Obert lived with his grandma, Gogo. Since he had been separated and lost touch with his parents in 2005, Obert spent five years of his young life panning for gold each day beneath the scorching sun. When we first met him, exams were approaching and Obert wanted nothing more than to sit them. But his chances of this were slim as he could no longer afford to attend school.
School fees had already been reduced from $6 to $2 a term in order to help struggling parents. But, with the the average wage at $1 a day and more than 80 per cent of Zimbabweans unemployed, many could still not afford the fees. Those who cannot pay are sent home, unable to return until they find enough money.
Every day, Obert worked and worked, collecting small shimmers of gold dust into his pan. There was not much food waiting for him when he returns home. “We only eat once a day – we have a beans and maize meal.” The money he earnt from panning gold was barely enough to put food on the table for him and his grandmother, let alone pay for school. He often worked a whole week without making even $2. “My future is dark if I don’t go to school,” he told us.
Since “Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children” aired in 2010, we have been able to send Obert back to school with the help of so many generous donations and support from around the world. Obert left the gold dust behind and, after missing two years of school, passed the entrance exams for a top boarding school where he began uncovering the treasures of learning instead. He passed his O’levels with outstanding results, four A’s, three B’s and four C’s, and has now registered to complete his A’level exams. Obert’s dream is to get a funding scholarship to become a doctor, so he can give back to the same neglected communities he came from. Obert tells us that he want to helps other children and encourage them to work hard because “education is for life.”
He returns home to his hut to spend every holiday with his loyal and proud grandmother and friends. Obert’s only request is to “please carry on assisting the school which I came from so the children can have a better chance at life”