GROWING up in Chitembo village of Luapula province life seemed hopeless for Abigail Kaindu and education was a far-fetched dream that she thought could not be a reality.

But through her determination and focus to get an education Abigail is slowly accomplishing her dream as she will soon be graduating with a diploma in insurance. And in her village the 23-year-old has become a role model to many young girls.

Whilst growing up in the rural area, Abigail encountered poverty, rejection and had to walk for more than 7 km to school every day but her struggles only made her even more focused on her education because she believed education was her liberation.

"Mother died when I was in grade 3 and I have never met my father. I struggled in my education because my grandmother who raised me couldn't pay for my school fees," says Abigail.

Despite the challenges Abigail managed to pass her, grade seven examinations but could not manage to continue in school because of lack of funds.
"At that time I thought my life had ended. All my hopes seemed lost. I prayed to God for somebody to come to my aid."

For most young girls in villages once they drop out of school marriage is likely the next stop they take in but that was not the path Abigail wanted to take.

"I walked with tears in my eyes every day. People in the village said I was wasting my time struggling with school and that marriage was the best. That was the last thing on my mind and it still is. My focus was to get the key to my success and that is education," she says.

She adds: "I would plead with the headmaster for him to allow me to attend classes after being chased for not paying school fees. He would understand and allow me to attend class. Although it was a challenge, I made sure that I never missed any class."

After struggling Abigail found an answer through the Camfed sponsorship programme.

She says: "In grade 8 an announcement was made at the school that Camfed was sponsoring vulnerable pupils. I was the first to register. We closed school and I even forgot about it. During the holidays I was told that I had been picked. I couldn't believe it and tears rolled down my face because I was so happy to finally have a chance to complete my education."

Abigail, was sponsored up to college level and is determined to move her family from poverty to prosperity.

"It makes me proud because my family has someone they can count on. Many young girls in the village look up to me now. I am a testimony of what education can do if you are focused and determined," she says Abigail who will be graduating in October after studying Insurance at the Zambia Insurance Business College Trust (ZIBCT), says she is living her dream.

"I remember my first international trip in 2008. I went to the UK for a leadership and business entrepreneurship forum. It was amazing looking at where I came from," she recalls.

She continues: "In August last year I met president Obama at The Young African Leaders Forum. It was amazing to meet President Obama and being at the White House, it was great. In July this year I was in South Africa with Michelle Obama who was meeting young women leaders in Africa. But the best achievement is completing school. I give gratitude to Camfed."

Abigail says it was sad for her to face rejection even from her family but that has made her a stronger person.

"I am very thankful for my grandmother who sacrificed her marriage for her to take care of me and other two orphans she was keeping. Grandfather was not for the idea that we stay with them. He used to say that we were finishing his food. Grandmother left him because she would not allow him to chase us from home," she recalls.

Her message to young people is: "Always be determined and be focused. Don't indulge in activities that will damage your bright future. People will always say that you cannot make it but you can. Just open your heart to opportunities and grab them with dignity."