Written by HYTES volunteers Glenna and Jan McGregor
Christina had probably the hardest life of anyone I have ever met, old or young. Christina Keny was born in a small Tanzanian village, but was abandoned by her mother at age 6. She was close to her father, but both her father and stepmother were dead before she was 10. She was cared for by her elderly grandparents until the age of 14 when tradition and her grandparents arranged her marriage to an older man for her bride-price. Christina ran away to Dar es Salaam where she found a relative, but the husband was abusive and they contracted for her to marry, again for a bride-price. She ran away again, and had nowhere to live, “I felt it was accidental for me to be born.”
Christina found refuge at Mawengi Secondary School in Dar es Salaam, started Form One (about grade eight) and met Glenna McGregor and Carol Frost. Glenna and Carol had both graduated from U of A and were volunteer teaching at Mawengi School for the summer.
Glenna says of Christina, “ That was the state of things when we first arrived and she missed a lot of school and was silent in class, staring out the window. While we were there she found somewhere to live, and was much happier. She started coming to school regularly and participating keenly in class debates and discussions and was one of the best for completing her homework. However, she still lived a HUGE distance from the school, out by the airport. It took us a couple of hours to get there by car, let alone by bus. She was never late and always came to school, even on Saturdays, and would often stay late so she could use the books in the library.” Of course, school fees were a problem, being as much as most families make in a year in Tanzania, and Christina did not have enough money for food, let alone fees.
HYTES paid Christina’s fees for the next 5 years. Christina has now completed Form 6, is at university and wants to be a teacher, maybe at the secondary level, but possibly at a university. She also plans to give back to her country, “ My aim is to help women and children who are being undermined in their rights: educational, social, political and economic.”