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This photo taken on Feb. 22, 2023 shows Getrude Muletalimo posing for a photo at Lilanda Combined School in Lusaka, Zambia. (Photo by Lillian Banda/Xinhua)

LUSAKA– Getrude Muletalimo is now a household name in Lilanda Township, one of the densely populated residential areas in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, as Muletalimo, 57 and a mother of three, is the oldest learner at Lilanda Combined School, a public school where primary and secondary education are offered.

Muletalimo is quick to share why she decided to be in school again after almost four decades.

“I realized that not having a good education was preventing me from being in gainful economic ventures.

“It also hindered me from participating in my community’s development activities because I was not a well-informed citizen,” Muletalimo explained.

She went on to say that the lack of educational support from her family caused her to drop out of school in 1983.

“My parents could not manage to buy school books or meet my other school requirements because of economic challenges,” she lamented.

After a few years of being out of school, Muletalimo got married and had children just like many of her peers during that period.

Nevertheless, her desire to be in school lingered.

In 2019, she went back to school at the age of 53 as a grade six pupil and successfully passed grade seven and grade nine examinations, which are a requirement for one to proceed to grade eight and 10, respectively.

And in less than two years, Muletalimo will be in grade 12, the final level of secondary education.

When asked about her experience with the much younger pupils and members of staff at the school she attends, Muletalimo stated that she has had no challenges fitting in.

“I am treated just like any pupil in the school. My classmates and members of staff have been very supportive and made it very easy for me to fit in,” she said.

This photo taken on Feb. 22, 2023 shows Getrude Muletalimo (1st R, front) attending a class at Lilanda Combined School in Lusaka, Zambia. (Photo by Lillian Banda/Xinhua)

Unlike others that go back to school in order to get well-paying jobs later on, Muletalimo wants to acquire knowledge so that she can be a more resourceful individual that is able to serve her family and community better. 

“I wish to work with organizations that advance girls’ education.

“I believe that having more women and girls that are educated reduces incidences of gender-based violence in homes and other spaces,” she said.

And Muletalimo’s husband Evans Katele, 60, said he finds it much easier to share and discuss ideas with her now that she is more enlightened.

Katele also lauded his wife for excelling in school despite the many demands and expectations from her family.

“She is a mother of three and a grandmother to five children. But that has not hindered her from performing well at school. I am very proud of her,” he said.

Muletalimo is encouraging many women to go back to school.

Lilanda Combined School readmitted five women aged between 30 and 38 who were, in one way or another, inspired by Muletalimo, according to school authorities.

Patrick Salubusa, councilor for Lilanda Township’s Kapwepwe ward, said within a span of four years, about 500 women and girls in his area have gone back to school.

The civic leader commended school authorities in Lilanda and surrounding areas for accommodating women and girls who want to go back to school. – Xinhua