Teenage dreams in Africa: the desire for clean water, decent food and education

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The Independent Online

Yannick Lingani, aged 13

Yannick, an orphan from the village of Kamboince in the district of Signoghin in Burkina Faso, was forced to drop out of school two years ago when his father died. Now he lives with his two elder brothers - and life, as for so many in this most impoverished of countries, is very hard.

Despite the best efforts of the charity Wateraid, which has paid for two freshwater boreholes to be built in his village, Yannick still has to collect most of his water from a muddy dam, which puts him at constant risk of contracting a water-related disease. "I come to this dam to fish and to collect water for drinking and bathing," he says. "But I wish that there was more money so that more boreholes could be built here as we really need clean water."


Asafash Kurshe, 15

It is hard to believe Asafash Kurshe is 15. Malnutrition has stunted her growth so she looks much younger. In a whisper, she explains how a year ago, her bladder weakened. "I didn't understand what was happening and there was no one to ask for help," she said. "My parents built me a separate hut so I could sit without being ashamed." After several months, her brother took her by bus from their home in the northern highlands to hospital in Addis Ababa. The journey took a week. Her fellow patients at the Fistula hospital are mainly young women who have had trouble giving birth, linked to a combination of childhood malnourishment and early marriage. When Asafash has children, she says, she wants one to become a doctor.


Aissatou Dramé, 17

Aissatou never had a childhood: at the age of 12 she was working as a housemaid because her parents couldn't afford to send her to school after they fled back to Guinea from the war in Sierra Leone. But since she learnt to sew she has gained some financial independence to help her family. Her father has not worked since returning to Conakry. Unicef invited her to Scotland for the children's version of the G8, known as the C8. "They know the problems of my country - which is poverty, lack of education, health and things like that," she says. What does she think about the G8? "They are people that can do everything. They've got money. My country isn't able to help people go to school and look after their health. If debt was gone, they could."


Benson Gichuhi, 16

Benson Gichuhi somersaulted as if his future depended on it at last Saturday's Make Poverty History rally in Nairobi, as part of a local dance group. For the crowds, it was good entertainment. For Benson, it was a chance to escape his life. "I really, really want to be a professional acrobat. There is nothing else I have even a chance of doing in Kenya, nothing. I prayed there would be someone out there watching me today." Benson is lucky. He is still at school - secondary education is beyond the reach of many Kenyan families. Yet his future does not look promising. His father has never had a job, and his mother sells fruit at roadside stalls. "It is impossible to find a job here - I need to go to America to be an engineer or a doctor but I like Kenya, I want to stay."


Milga Yusuf Hachi, 17

Milga was only recently allowed her first day at school, because she was female and came from a poor farming community. At the school in Toghdeer, set up by the charity Save the Children UK, she takes lessons with boys much younger than her. Before school, she starts work at five in the morning to cook breakfast for her family of nine. After school, she tends to the family's only asset, a herd of goats, then does more houseworkuntil 10 at night. She did not know of the G8 Summit or the Live8 concert. "If they really want to help Africa then it is a very good thing," she said. "They should help girls in countries like ours. I am unhappy that I only started my education nine months ago. I want to be a teacher, if that will be possible -I shall keep trying."

South Africa

Tokozile Ngqungqa, 15

Tokozile already thinks about the end of her life. She understands little of the G8, or the aims of Live8, but is certain of one thing: she needs help now. "I am too poor to be bothered by music," she says. "If Mr Blair's aid comes later, it might not reach me. I will be dead." Her parents diedwhen she was 10. She looks after her three sisters in the family's tin shack, and has left school because she cannot afford the 30 rands (£2.50) in fees. She earns a meagre living from temporary jobs and by renting out their small backyard - but it is hardly enough to feed the four girls. "Sometimes we go for three days without a meal." Tokozile is so desperate that "if I had wings I would fly directly to this meeting to state my own case."


Rehema Omari, 14

Rehema used to like going to school, but this year she had to leave because her mother could not afford to buy her a uniform. The skirt, shirt and plastic sandals cost at least 3,500 shillings (£1.75). Her family lives in one of the poorest areas in Tanzania. "It's not that I've left school," she says. "I just can't go because I don't have a uniform. My favourite subjects were English, Swahili and maths." Rehema's ambition is to become a farmer or perhaps a businesswoman in her local village, Mingoyo. In the meantime, she helps her mother around the house and tries to keep up her studies. "I still take my books during the day and try to read to remind myself what I used to learn," she says. "Our life is very hard. I'd like to see changes."


Bruno and Michael, 15

Bruno and Michael have dropped out of secondary school in Mpigi because the family's coffee sales no longer bring in enough money to pay the fees. "I can't be successful. I can't have a better future if I don't go to school," says Bruno. "I will just be left here, growing a little food. I was sent home from school. They need the money for their salaries. My mother would try to find money, a few shillings at a time, and send me back with it after a week or so. This is the main coffee season. Everyone used to go back to school with the money from coffee. But now the money is not there. The price is so low people are not even picking the coffee. I wish the people who use our coffee could give us a better market. We can't survive. All I want is to go to school."