New Mother Caroline Is Achieving Her Education Goals

Written with insights from Siama Yusuf, CFK Africa Program Officer for Community Health Services

What may have been seen as an unchangeable setback for some became a driving force for Caroline*, an 18-year-old student and mother of a three-month-old participating in CFK Africa’s Funzo project.

“What drives me is my family and my child. I believe in my potential and strive to do better every day. My motivation stems from wanting to provide a better life for my family and to make my mother proud.” Caroline shared.

Caroline is one of many teenage mothers in Kenya who initially struggled to remain in school after having a child. After giving birth, her family was not accepting of her new situation and she had to find housing elsewhere for a month. When she returned home, she discovered that her mother could not afford to send her back to school. She was out of school for almost a year, “I wasn’t able to study because I had numerous responsibilities to attend to and very limited time to allocate to studying.”

“Despite this setback, I was determined not to stay idle at home because I knew what I wanted in life. Though I had disappointed my mother, I assured her that I was aware of my goals,” said Caroline.

Photos: Caroline* (not her real name) and her daughter in Kibera.

Empowerment through Education

When her mother’s friend introduced her to CFK Africa’s Funzo project, she applied and was able to obtain a scholarship to return to school.

The Funzo project provides pathways for teenage mothers to continue their education and reduces stigmatization around mothers in schools at the administrative and classroom levels, ensuring a supportive environment for young mothers to succeed in their studies.

Caroline is determined not to let having a child slow down her academic achievements or affect her future goals, “academic success has always been important to me.” Now attending Olympic High School in Kibera, she is passionate about business, English, and mathematics. One day, she hopes to become an entrepreneur and manage her own business, “The prospect of being my own boss excites me and motivates my pursuit of knowledge in this field.”

But this does not mean that returning to school has come without challenges, “the experience hasn’t been easy for me.” Caroline leaves school daily to breastfeed her baby, missing lessons. “I miss lessons and come back to find the class has gone ahead,” Caroline shared. “I’ve also encountered negative opinions from some members of the community. They believe that having a child means my future is limited, and they question the value of my education. Despite the challenges of having to go home to breastfeed while my classmates continue studying, I remain undeterred. Although returning to find myself behind my peers can be disheartening, I refuse to let it affect my determination.”

Creating academic environments where young mothers are able to thrive is an ongoing process. But Caroline believes that someone facing a challenge similar to her own should not lose hope, “Getting pregnant isn’t the end of the road. She shouldn’t give up; instead, she should persevere through the journey. If she has the opportunity to return to school, she should seize it and complete her studies. It’s crucial to remain hopeful and focus on building a better future.”

Caroline’s Success

Caroline is building her own future. “Recently, in the exams that concluded, I emerged as the top performer in two subjects across all five streams. Being a teen mother has only fueled my determination to keep pushing forward.”

Not only does Caroline utilize the services provided by the Funzo project, but she also regularly takes her baby for monthly check-ups at the Tabitha Medical Clinic. CFK Africa has become an integral part in her journey to achieving her goals, “I express my sincere gratitude to CFK Africa for providing me with this opportunity, and to all the teen mothers who have been supported by CFK Africa. This chance means the world to me, and I am fully aware that education is the key to achieving my dreams. I am committed to making the most of this opportunity. Thank you for believing in me.”

* Caroline (not her real name) agreed to be interviewed on her experience. To protect her privacy, her name has been changed.

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