Racheal Mtonthola is an English teacher at FCTrelief and as the only woman teacher she is responsible for the well-being of our girls especially. Chris Merk reports.
Racheal Mtonthola is the sister of our head teacher, Eugene and has been with us as English teacher since April 2019. Last year I noticed how observant she is when teaching or monitoring her pupils and the children in general over the lunch break. A few years ago the deputy head of one of the schools many of our pupils attend, told me about a psychosocial counselling course she had done and how she is now a guidance teacher responsible for her pupils with their many different problems and issues. During the lockdown when Racheal had more time, it seemed the right moment for her to do such a course, to be better prepared to help and advise mainly our girls but also our boys at FCTrelief.
She was delighted at this chance and enrolled at once. The course also includes HIV testing and counselling, such an important issue still in Zambia. A few of our pupils are HIV positive from birth and get their medication for free, but we realise that they still need monitoring, as was the case with 2 of our girls recently, who were ill and under-nourished and then struggling to take their medication with little or no food at home and because they were too ill to come to us for their takeaway lunches.
Last Saturday was a FCTrelief health check day and Dr. Winnice, the young lady doctor we sponsored, who is now qualified and working in a hospital in Lusaka, came to examine some of our pupils. During the morning, Racheal was able to first counsel the pupils and staff about HIV testing and then test 20 of them – all are negative, thankfully. Often people shy away from testing as there is still a stigma to HIV/ Aids and this then causes further cases if they are positive but do not know it. People can be tested for free at clinics but are more willing to be tested privately and in a secure environment.
Racheal also noticed last year that one of our girls was probably pregnant, which she was, and talked to her and her mother about the situation and at least this girl was able to complete her schooling before giving birth. There have been a far higher number of teenage pregnancies in Zambia this year due to the Covid-19 lockdown and many of the girls especially will not return to school again, have been married off early or have had to find odd jobs to help the family. Only about 30% of Zambian girls complete their education due to poverty. Racheal is determined to make sure all our girls realise the importance of a good education and the chance to do further training and break this barrier, which in turn will give them and their families a better life.
We are grateful to have Racheal not only to teach our pupils but to counsel them when necessary, do HIV testing if she feels this is needed, and be better equipped to help our pupils in general.
Rachels Thank you
Here is what Racheal wrote to thank us and FCTrelief for making this possible:
A big thank you to FCTrelief for your generous support regarding my psychosocial counselling course.
I was very happy and appreciative to learn that I would be a recipient of your sponsorship. Thanks to your generous support I am now a skilled professional counsellor. This course has helped me earn credentials in counselling which requires special training and coursework.
My passion for psychosocial counselling is matched by my love for children, so my decision to pursue in psychosocial counselling comes from the heart. As a guidance teacher, I have a big role in bringing out the best in our pupils. Psychosocial counselling will equip me with vital skills that will enable me to give proper guidance to the pupils. Sometimes pupils need guidance and counselling to enable them deal with emotional conflicts, self-esteem, stress, body image and personal problems. Counselling allows pupils to talk to me about various experiences that are overwhelming and too much for them to cope with. Some pupils come from broken homes and therefore might develop a cynical attitude and feelings of mistrust toward their parents, teachers and friends. They can be helped through guidance and counselling sessions.
In Zambia, teenage pregnancy is on a high rate due to poverty, peer pressure and desire for high life. Being a skilled counsellor will enable me to address such issues by having a one on one talk with the pupils and by putting an emphasis on the value of education. Guiding and counselling will also help me provide assistance to pupils academically, socially and emotionally.
Once again I appreciate you so much for helping me become a better professional. Your generosity will remain in my heart forever.