Fifty-year-old Mary Theza from Nyundo Village, Group Village Head M’thethe in Traditional Authority Kalumbu, Lilongwe, has four children she looks after.
She has no any reliable source of livelihood, yet the children have to go to school.
The schools within her area demand a lot. Learners have to pay development fees as well as make sure that they attend classes in school uniform.
The 50-year-old widow narrates that the journey has not been easy for her.
“They were going to school but it was very difficult to provide for them. I found it hard to buy soap and body lotion. The children were going to school without using such basic necessities. The demand for development fees and school uniform made life more unbearable for me and my children,” she says.
In 2018, however, she heaved a sigh of relief. She was enrolled in the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) being implemented by Lilongwe District Council.
“Once I started getting these cash transfers, the children’s lives have improved drastically. They are able to go to school. I am able to meet any demands the schools they go to make,” she says.
Under the SCTP, popularly known as Mtukula Pakhomo, Theza receives K10,000 per month.
Apart from catering for school needs for her dependents, Theza has livestock, which she is using to improve her family’s diet.
Her 16-year-old son is in form one while a 12-year-old son is in standard seven.
She is optimistic that, with the support she is getting from Mtukula Pakhomo, she will be able to see her three children and a grandchild through all levels of education.
“I am happy that they are back to school. They are now focused on their studies,” Theza says.
She wants them to support themselves and their children in future.
Fifty-nine-year-old Dona Chagoma from Mashokoshwa Village, in the same area of Traditional Authority Kalumbu, is also all smiles with the transformation the SCTP has made to her household.
She, like Theza, is a widow. She looks after three children. She says the money she gets from the programme has helped ease the challenges she was experiencing.
One of her children is pursuing tertiary education, another one is sitting Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations this year while the youngest of them is in standard three.
“I use the money for educating the three children. I am happy that they are now doing well in their studies,” she says.
However, Chagoma does not restrict herself to using the money for the children’s education.
“I have also started implementing some projects at home. We have bricks which I would like to use for construction of a new house. I have also bought some goats.I am thankful that I was picked for the programme,” she says.
SCTP supports the ultra-poor and incapacitated households. It is being implemented in all the 28 districts in Malawi and covers about 290,000 households.
According to guidelines for the implementation of the programme, labour-constrained households are those with no member in the age bracket of 19 to 64 years fit for work, those in the age bracket of 19 to 25 years still attending school and has a member in the age bracket of 19 to 64 years fit for work but has to care for more than three dependents.
In Lilongwe, the current programme started in 2018. The district’s total budget for social cash transfer in the 2021-22 financial year was K2.6 billion.
The council’s social welfare office recently disbursed K690 million for for the months of January through to March.
Lilongwe District Council Social Welfare Officer Responsible for Cash Transfer, Arnold Mndolo, says although in recent years the Covid pandemic negatively affected implementation of the programme, things got on the right track as time passed.
“We had delays in disbursing funds to the beneficiaries but, all in all, we have attained something which is tangible and this is good to the beneficiaries. Almost 60 to 80 percent of the people can graduate,” he says.
Mndolo says, as a way of preparing beneficiaries to graduate, they clearly tell them the objectives of the programme. He says this is done prior to commencement of cash transfers.
“We tell them objectives of the Social Cash Transfer Programme. After giving them the cash, we make sure that, during case management, we also monitor what they are going through and what they are using the cash they received for,” Mndolo says.
According to SCTP Policy, beneficiaries are entitled to receive benefits for a period of up to four years before being subjected to a recertification. Households exit the programme if they dissolve completely, the household head decides to renounce his position as a beneficiary of the programme and after discovering, during re-targeting, that the household is no longer labour-constrained and ultra-poor.