As a child, Emelia Phiri wanted to go to school, but her father forbade it.
“My father never believed formal education was for girls,” she says. “He believed girls were supposed to help their mother with household chores and later get married.”
As a result, Emelia watched friends get an education, but never learned how to read or write herself. One day, out of admiration for a school-going friend, she went to school without the consent of her father. The moment the matter was reported back to her father, he was so upset that he raised a quarrel with her mother.
Later, her parents sternly warned her of more severe consequences should she disobey them again. The father kept citing the excuse that the school had a policy of charging a monetary fine, which he was not willing to pay, for any pupil who was absent from school for more than 10 days in any given year. It was at that point that she gave up. She later got married at 16 years of age.
But Emelia didn’t give up for good, and finally, at the age of 65, she got her chance to get an education.
With your support, CLWR and our partner The Lutheran World Federation helped establish adult literacy classes in Emelia’s home in the eastern region of Zambia, where illiteracy levels stand at over 60%.
Emelia joined a class in 2010. After two and a half years of hard work, she has learned to read and write in the local language.
“With my basic reading and writing skills, I am more positively involved in people’s lives despite my advanced years,” she says proudly. “I read my Bible for my grandchildren and I am sometimes called upon to read for my friends at my local church.”
Furthermore, she is able to read and write letters for her friends in the village.
“As a result of these interactions with and contributions to members of my community, especially with my grandchildren, as a senior citizen, I feel I am more appreciated and that makes me very happy”.