– April 25 2019
Akpena’s story: Encouraging young people to be strong in the face of poverty
Akpena* was just a toddler when her father died, leaving her mother to care for her and her four siblings alone. Without the money Akpena’s father earned selling pearl millet and sorghum flour and the small government grant he was entitled to, the grieving family sunk deeper into poverty. Akpena’s mother struggled for years to keep her children safe with almost no money for food, medicine, clothes or school supplies.
This is a familiar tale in Ondangwa town in northern Namibia, where fathers are often the main breadwinners. Female headed families, which make up almost half of Namibia’s households, can be left with little income and no access to clean water, food, medical care or education.
But things began to improve for the family when Akpena’s mother joined the SOS entrepreneurship training programme. With her new-found skills she was able to take over the running of her husband’s business and support her four children. The family strengthening programme also helped send Akpena and her siblings to school regularly. These days the whole family is more successful and have a steady income, and Akpena says it has been a great relief for her to witness her family situation gradually improve.
“I was in eighth grade when the SOS team came to help us,” remembers Akpena. “My life was difficult at the time due to financial problems. My mother was worried she would not be able to afford to pay my school fees as the years went by and I wondered who would pay for my education.”
Thanks to an SOS scholarship Akpena was able to finish high school, and her brothers and sisters were supported with school uniforms, books, stationary and other essential school items. She worked hard at school and even enrolled in extra classes at the Namibian College of Open learning to help further her studies.
As the oldest in her family Akpena is determined to continue working hard to make her dreams a reality. Through her success, she hopes to save her four siblings from experiencing the hardship she endured as a child.
“I want to have a better future by achieving my goals,” Akpena tells us. “I want to improve the lives of my relatives and the people around me. I want to improve my family’s standard of living, and change the situation at home by helping financially so that my siblings have a better life.”
Now 23, Akpena’s hard work has paid off. She has graduated from high school and earned a place at the University of Namibia to study for a Bachelor of Education, specialising in mathematics and science. When she graduates in 2021 she plans to help educate other young people in her community who struggle with problems like early pregnancies, alcohol and drug abuse, peer pressure, and suicidal thoughts.
“I will encourage young people to study hard and be strong in the face of poverty’” she says. “I want them to know that their self-esteem is the key to everything.”
One in ten children in Namibia do not have access to education, and a further 18% suffer from malnourishment. SOS Children’s Villages has been caring for unsupported children in Namibia since 1984. Today our SOS family strengthening programme in Ondangwa is providing training, psychosocial and educational support to 463 children from 142 families, just like Akpena’s.
*Name changed to protect identities.