KILIMANJARO TREK FOR MANDELA
Climbing to curb girl absenteeism from school because of periods
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.