Fabian, Best Student Award winner, and his mother Salome

After four years, Fabian's back in school.

Like many women in Tanzania, single mother Salome works hard to make ends meet. She lives in down-town Morogoro, in the country's east, in a rented one-bedroom shack with no toilet.

But having no toilet is the least of her concerns. Salome is the mother of three feisty sons, and her highest priority in life is making sure her boys are healthy and educated.

Things deteriorated for Salome when her husband disappeared, leaving the family in limbo. She was jobless, and relied on hawking fruit to put food on the table. The income she was earning wasn't sufficient to raise her three sons.

She was staring her worst nightmare in the face. She could no longer afford to send her children to school. For Fabian, her eldest, this meant four years without education. Fabian was forced to endure other side effects of poverty as well - his nutrition was poor, and he suffered from skin diseases and other illnesses.

The Hope Street Children's Project, funded by World Vision, provides vulnerable children with basic education. They are eventually enrolled into a regular educational system. With the help of social workers, ward officers and cell house leaders, project staff visit streets and poor homesteads looking for children who are either abandoned or neglected.

One day, Fabian was approached by a local government officer involved with this project. From there, his life changed forever.

"It was in the street where I met the local government leader who wanted to know why I was not at school," explained Fabian. "The following day he visited our house, and a week later, my mother took me to a MEMKWA school," he continued with excitement. MEMKWA is a Swahili abbreviation used for informal schools meant for street children. Because most of the children are older and have never gone to school, they go to special schools before they can be enrolled in the main stream schools.

"I was worried that I would be sent home because I had no uniform but I was later provided with uniforms, socks, a school bag, exercise books and even lunch at school," he added.

Hussein Shami, Project Coordinator, has nothing but praise for Fabian. "We normally give a best student award. Fabian has won this award twice," he says.

Fabian is among 15 children considered ready to take grade 4 national primary school exams. If he passes, he will earn a ticket to be re-integrated into a mainstream school.

After four discouraging years, Fabian can finally smile upon a brighter future.

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