Jamilla, 18, lives in the Ilala Municipality of Dar-es-Salaam, which is Tanzania’s largest city. Both of her parents died about 10 years ago, and since then she has lived with her grandparents. Her 70-year-old grandfather sells fish—his income supports eight family members—but his health is not what it used to be, and he needs an expensive operation. Most days, the family can afford to eat two simple meals: tea in the morning, and ugali (maize meal porridge) in the afternoon, supplemented by vegetables from a garden plot and occasionally some meat.
Low-income Tanzanian families like Jamilla’s live close to the edge. An illness, a poor crop, or an unexpected crisis, even on a small scale, can upset a household’s precarious financial balance. When times are tough, one set of expenses often sacrificed is school fees and related costs, such as uniforms and bus fare, forcing young people to leave their education behind and become breadwinners, housekeepers, or caregivers.
But Jamilla has opportunities that many poor African children—especially orphans—do not have. Even though she is old enough to work, she is enrolled in school and distinguishes herself as a top student with high grades; she shines in history, her favorite subject. She dreams of a career as an accountant or banker, aspirations that her family’s poverty would normally preclude.