Climb­ing to curb girl ab­sen­teeism from school be­cause of pe­ri­ods

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - TEBOGO MONAMA

IT’S THAT time of the year once more. The Nel­son Man­dela Foun­da­tion is again tak­ing a group of peo­ple up the high­est peak on the con­ti­nent to raise funds.

The team will again go up the 5 895m Mount Kil­i­man­jaro in Tan­za­nia in an ef­fort to raise money to keep girls in school.

About 30 climbers will take part in this year’s Trek4Man­dela ex­pe­di­tion to raise funds for san­i­tary pads for school­girls in hon­our of Nel­son Man­dela.

With Men­stru­a­tion Hy­giene Week hav­ing just passed, the plight of school­girls due to not hav­ing san­i­tary pads was in the spot­light when the team re­cently went on a train­ing hike at the Suiker­bosrand Na­ture Re­serve.

They hope to reach Uhuru peak, the high­est spot on the con­ti­nent, on July 18, which is Man­dela’s birth­day.

For high school teacher Es­ther Masinga, rais­ing funds for girls’ san­i­tary pads is some­thing close to home for her. Masinga, a maths and sci­ence teacher at Matetenene Sec­ondary School out­side Rusten­burg, said the lack of such fem­i­nine hy­giene prod­ucts was “a se­ri­ous dis­as­ter”.

“We ex­pe­ri­ence high rates of ab­sen­teeism. And when you go find out what the prob­lem is, it’s be­cause the child is on her pe­ri­ods and doesn’t have pads or is raised by a grand­mother (who doesn’t have money to buy them) or that she is the head of the house­hold (and doesn’t have money to buy them),” Masinga said.

She added that schools don’t have enough re­sources to as­sist pupils. “You find that we only have a small packet of pads for emer­gen­cies,” she said.

Masinga re­counted one of the ex­pe­ri­ences that pushed her to raise funds for girls at her school.

“Schoolkids like gath­er­ing in the bath­rooms, and one day I went in and called them out for assem­bly.

“Once they left, I in­spected the bath­rooms and found that they have been us­ing rags that I used to dust the boards with for their pe­ri­ods. It was re­ally heart­break­ing.”

Masinga said she had al­ways been ad­ven­tur­ous and this led her to join the Len­gau Con­ser­va­tion Club in the erst­while Bo­phuthatswana.

“I then made friends in the bush and I met one of the largest hik­ing groups in the coun­try, Dit­samaanaga Hik­ing Club, and my love for hik­ing grew from there.

“I have al­ways wanted to go to Kil­i­man­jaro and be­cause this is done for a good cause, I de­cided to do it with the Im­bumba Foun­da­tion,” Masinga said.

Ad­ven­turer and trek leader Sibu­siso Vi­lane. who has sum­mited Kil­i­man­jaro 21 times and Mount Ever­est twice, said the most im­por­tant thing for the trekkers was to know why they are sum­mit­ing. “Work around that when you are psych­ing your­self up. Why am I re­ally here? It is for car­ing for girls, but why am I here?”

Last year, tragedy struck the team when one of their mem­bers, Gugu Zulu, died.

Zulu, a revered rac­ing car driver and also an ex­er­cise en­thu­si­ast, died after ex­pe­ri­enc­ing breath­ing prob­lems on the moun­tain. At the time, he was try­ing to sum­mit with his wife Let­shego.

Vi­lane ad­mit­ted that was one of his most painful ex­pe­ri­ences on an ex­pe­di­tion.

He said the most im­por­tant thing about go­ing up the moun­tain was be­ing phys­i­cally ready and to keep hy­drated at all times.

Richard Mabaso of Car­ing4Girls said: “This year we are do­ing it for our brother Gugu and for Nel­son Man­dela.”

To as­sist Masinga with do­na­tions, please SMS ES­THER to 42513 to do­nate R30, which will go to­wards buy­ing the much needed san­i­tary pads so that her pupils don’t have to use rags any­more.

They’ll be do­ing it for Madiba and for late rac­ing driver Gugu Zulu

SKY’S THE LIMIT: High school teacher Es­ther Masinga will be one of the peo­ple go­ing up Mount Kil­i­man­jaro to raise funds for school­girls.

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