BEING married off at a tender age as a result of losing both parents and dropping out of school has become a common tale among many girls in Zambia.
This is what prompted Mary Kaluba to traverse that path in life.
This, she did despite passing her grade seven examinations at age 17 but school was not top on her cards then due to lack of school fees as well as lack of a support system.
The ordeal of Ms Kaluba of Chililabombwe who is now the winner of the More Money in Your Pocket game show 50 seater Higer bus may not be quite strange to many.
But what changed her life was the event of Wednesday, November 7 2012 which marked a milestone in her life as she was picked among the 10 contestants that qualified for the draw and apparently had the right key to start the Higer bus worth K600 million.
After listening to her life story, an ordeal or myriad of struggles one might be right to say that she deserved it because of her numerous attempts of taking part in many game shows and competitions currently on the market in the hope that one day she might win big cash.
Her life has not been an easy one but what drove her to participate in the competition was lots of determination coupled with hard work.
Ms Kaluba always believed that in the midst of her struggles, her life would one day change for the better and so it did that day when she won the big bus.
Born on September 21, 1984, Mary is the 14th born in a family of 15 where her father had sired most of her siblings from different women.
But when her father died and later her mother in 1999, her big family could not help the young Mary continue her education despite passing her grade seven exams at Mintondo Primary School in Chiliabombwe.
That shattered her dream of securing her future .
It was against this back-ground that Mary in 2001 decided to get married to Sydney Mungala, a small scale business executive because she could not manage to live with her relatives who could not help her in any way and alongside her husband the two partnered together not just as a couple but even in their business dealings.
Through the business of selling hardware at Twikatane Market in Chilabombwe, the couple found their feet while Mary started supplementing the trade by going to rural Chililabombwe to buy ifinkubala (caterpillars), beans and other farm produce to resale at the market.
With discipline and determination, the couple's business blossomed to an extent that they have started building a three bed-roomed house which is nearing completion.
But Mary still desires to complete education so she still has her love for school and has decided to proceed to Grade Eight by going for night school at Twafwane Basic School in Chililabombwe.
A mother of three boys, Sydney 9, Charles 7 and Dalitso 4, Mary who initially wanted to be a medical doctor after completing school said she would now opt to do nursing because time has gone for her to become a doctor.
"When I was a kid I wanted to be a Doctor but after staying for so long without going to school, I have decided to still care for the sick through Nursing," she said.
The shy yet composed Mary said it was never too late for her to do anything in life but that being a doctor needed a lot of time and that she did not want to deny her family the much needed care and love from her.
"I would have loved to study medicine but my family at the same time will need me during the seven years that I would have to be away studying. Nursing will be much easier for me to handle for now," she said in Bemba as she struggled to utter a few words in English.
Asked if the bus she won was anything she needed to change her life, Mary said she played the game not to win the bus but rather for other prizes that were meant to empower businesses as she wanted to grow her business as well as complete the building project plus pursue her academics.
Mary said she was attracted to the Zamtel More Money in Your Pocket game show because of the business capital that the producers were giving to the winners and not necessarily the bus which came later after she started playing the game already.
"After dropping out of school I knew that the only way possible was for me to work hard in business and with the help of my supportive husband though he married me when I was very young, we could make it," said Mary heaping praise on her husband.
"My husband is hardworking and not playful, and he is the reason why I have managed to go back to school because of his support," she said.
Mary said she used to buy airtime worth K50,000 a day just to win something to boost their business and assist them in raising the three children.
"I used to buy airtime worth K50,000 a day and sometimes if I was broke I could at least manage for K10,000," she said.
While seated watching the game show on Thursday November 1 this year with her family, she received a call from the show presenter informing her that she was one of those picked to take part in the 50 seater Higer bus grand draw but that didn't excite her.
"I was not excited when they called me to tell me that I was among the ten selected to take part in the draw, I just wanted the money that is all," she said.
But on that particular day at the Zamtel House in Lusaka where the draw was taking place, Mary and nine others stood in a queue after picking number balls in the box to determine who goes first.
Mary's ball was number four and after the three contestants keys failed to start the bus, it was her turn.
Mary who charmed the audience at the draw with her beautiful looks complemented by the nice-fitting purple dress, strutted majestically forward while her fans shouted "she is the winner!" "She is a winner!!"
And to the audiences liking, Mary had the right key to the bus and her future as she ignited the 50 seater Higer bus and made it hers.
Ms Kaluba could not believe it but thanked Zamtel not for the bus for empowering the people in the society with the game show that looked at funding people's business ideas.
Asked on what she would do with the bus, Mary who was honest enough in her reply; "I am not sure on what I will do with the bus, I first need to sit down with my husband and decide on what to do," she said.
Mary had a word for people that might have gone through similar experiences in life like herself.
"I am not saying this because I have won the bus but rather would like to encourage many orphans and vulnerable children and women out there to work hard and be determined and not to engage in mischievous deeds but ask God for strength and guidance and work hard," she said.
A devoted member and Sunday school teacher at the United Church of Zambia (UCZ) St Matthews congregation in Lubengele Township, Mary said it is not about winning the bus but rather working hard and ceasing the opportunities that come in life like the More Money in Your Pocket game show despite what one has been through in life's journey.