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Dealing with Failure: the case of Isaurinha

Sometimes children die on us. But it is not often. It is part of our basis to provide children with access to food and basic health services. So we have that as an extremely sporadic event. It saddens us and makes us wonder what could we have done to avoid it, like with our Belide who passed away earlier this year. But the real disappointment comes more often than death, and it is called deception.  

We build our resilience to focus on the successes, because we know the hit rate is tough, especially as kids get older, and especially when we deal with girls. Maybe that is why we had our hopes so high for Isaurinha.   She was one of our first Uni Scholarships and had been with us from a very young age.

She was part of my ‘first group’ and through the years we watched her grow and become a young woman, wanting to study and staying away from the usual path for other girls, teenage pregnancy.  

We gave her all that we believed was possible. She chose to move cities from her home in Xai-Xai and pursue a degree in Chokwe. We financed her tuition and supported her housing expenses. We interceded with the Local Partner the Vicentine nuns to give her a decent and protected place to stay, and asked for understanding when this promising 18 year old girl sometimes arrived past the 9 o’clock curfew. Multiple times she was given an ultimatum to change her erratic behaviour and multiple times we interceded with our Local Partner to give her one more chance. She always had good excuses, and most importantly, she always demonstrated a genuine interest in her studies.  

Deep inside we always knew she was a tough case, in that limbo between taking the opportunity to break through and just following the world around her. Communication deteriorated at points. We require the ALG Uni Scholarship students to send news and grades on a regular basis to keep their scholarship. We know it is easy for them to go astray. And so did Isaurinha.  

Today we found out about months of deception, where she seems to have dropped her 3rd year at University months ago, if she registered this year at all. The local nun, that had warmed up to her and to supporting her, is heart broken. Our trust in these older students falters. Despite the tight system we run around all of them, it still fails

And yes, I am heartbroken too. Saddened by her choice. Saddened by my inability to explain to her how important this opportunity was to change the life she has. It was not by lack of trying. Isaurinha is personally financed by one of our ALG Trustees, who in her last trip had this same conversation with her. We all did.  

Our knee jerk reaction is to ask all Uni Scholars for renewed immediate proof of their studies or otherwise cancel their scholarship next month. But our true reaction is one much deeper and emotional. We wonder if we can change this cycle, we wonder how we can change this. We want to change this cycle. We have to. So we need to remember those who made it – Hilario, Silvestre, Joaquim, Graça, Eduardo, Gil, Helio, Mauricio, Helder… – and learn from them more than we learn from our deceptions.

Sara Vicente.

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