Dorothy Joseph’s face cannot stop glowing and beaming with hope for a better future as she interacts with fellow youths in her village.
The new-found hope is a huge change from years past when her future looked hopeless and empty.
In 2013, she lost her father, fell pregnant and dropped out of school just after being selected to Phanda Community Day Secondary (CDSS). She got married at 13 years old to a young man responsible for her pregnancy.
Ridiculed by her in-laws and abandoned by her husband who disappeared to South Africa a year later, Dorothy’s marriage experience was another journey in hell.
“He never sent any support for me and the child. His parents started calling me names and I could no longer live in their compound,” says Dorothy, who comes from Lombe Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Masache in Chikwawa.
Now she is back to her mother’s home and back to school too having been re-admitted at Phanda CDSS
Dorothy is in Form Four and she works hard to pass the examinations and proceed to college. Her dream place is the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine or Surgery.
“I learnt it the hard way in my early marriage experience. I am so determined to complete my secondary education and proceed to college,” she says.
Dorothy draws inspiration not only from the hardships she went through in marriage but also from moral support she gets from fellow youth members under Lombe Youth Club.
This grouping has long helped several youths in T/A Masache to believe again in a possible better future. Some of these youths were too fragile to take responsible actions for themselves.
“Joining this club has helped me regain my confidence that I can do better than dropping out of school and dash for early marriage,” says Dorothy, now 18.
Lombe Club is one of the 15 youth clubs in T/A Masache supported by World Vision Malawi (WVM) through its Action for Adolescents and Youth Development programme.
The project has four thematic areas which include youth ready and entrepreneurship for young persons.
It is under this component that WVM carries out its youth empowerment activities by, among other approaches, encouraging the youth, especially girls, who dropped out of school to go back to school.
Another focus is entrepreneurship which encourages the youth to engage in various activities that would help them generate permanent financial incomes.
But it is the education aspect that is currently bearing immediate results with most dropouts going back to school.
For Dorothy, the love for school is pronounced than before because of her membership to the club.
Lombe Youth Club Chairperson Fryton Bishop hails Dorothy for her determination and passion for school which has enabled her to re-focus through the club.
“In our club, we discuss quite a number of issues and education is given priority. We are happy that Dorothy is one of the many girls who realised the importance of school and went back after dropping out,” Bishop says.
WVM Technical Programmes Manager for Education Florence Pwele says there are happy that their project is generating the desired response from youths.
“The aim of the project is to empower adolescents, especially young girls who dropped out of school because of marriages and pregnancies by giving them a second chance in school.
“It also offers an opportunity for the youth to unearth their potential of becoming productive citizens and consequently contribute to national development,” Pwele says.
She adds that WVM is so far impressed with the measurable progress of the project.
Pwele, therefore, advises all youths, especially girls, who dropped out of school to give another go while they are still young.
“There is always a second chance, pregnancy or marriage does not mean that the future is doomed,” she says.
In Chikwawa, there are over 350,000 youths but only 15 percent are either in school or doing some entrepreneurship activities, according to the district’s Youth Officer Chigonjetso Chiromo.
The majority of the youth are trapped in early and forced marriages and with many of them missing out in productive activities, interventions by organisations such as WVM are always welcome.
And Chiromo is grateful for the outcomes that the project by WVM is spawning, especially in Masache area.
“Last year, about 51 girls who dropped out of school either for being pregnant or forced to marry returned to school. We hope to see more girls back to school with such interventions,” Chiromo says.
In 1993, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology adopted the re-admission policy that gives girls a second chance to go back to school and pursue their studies.
Since the adoption, there has been a tremendous improvement in terms of number of girls returning to school, according to Ministry of Education Public Relations Officer Lindiwe Chide.
“It is encouraging to see the numbers increasing. Government will continue to create a conducive environment for girls to go back to school,” Chide says.
She adds that the ministry has a number of bursary schemes for girls who are so willing to return to school.
For girls such as Dorothy, returning to school is the best way out of gambling with one’s own future.
“With education, I am assured of a better and stable future. That was not the case when I was in my teenage marriage,” Dorothy says.
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