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Determined to address education challenges

By Watipaso Mzungu:

In less than two years, 51 students—girls and boys—dropped out of Mongozi Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in Sub Traditional Authority (STA) Ndunga in Kasungu.

The dropouts cited poor infrastructure resulting in unfavourable learning environment, shortage of teachers and lack of teaching and learning materials as the major reason for their decision to dump the school.

Mbongozi CDSS was opened in 2017 to provide space and access to secondary education to learners graduating from 10 primary schools in Mthawira Education Zone in the Central Region district.

It is the only secondary school in the zone but its makeshift classroom blocks are not suitable for teaching and learning.

“Our students endure bad weather conditions to enjoy their right to education, especially during rainy seasons because we offer our lessons under trees and makeshift classrooms that could pass for tobacco sheds.

“These are some of the factors that demoralise and demotivate learners from going on with thei r education,” the school’s Head teacher, Frank Gidala, says.

Gidala says the majority of students that dropped out of the school opted to be assisting their parents in cultivating crops, while others, especially girls, chose to marry at tender ages.

Globally, social, economic, environmental and structural disparities are blamed for the intergroup differences in health and education outcomes both within and between societies.

This calls for concerted and sustainable investments into young generation’s need —their education, healthcare—and ensuring that they have access to modern contraception services to allow them to take charge of their own futures and also help to stabilise the fertility rate.

These are critical and can potentially contribute towards the realisation of the African Union Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

A United States (US)- based non-profit, buildOn, in partnership with pop star Madonna’s charity organisation, Raising Malawi, have undertaken some efforts to address social and economic challenges that keep the majority of Malawian children out of school.

The two organisations, which are implementing projects in Kasungu, Balaka, Mwanza and Neno districts, are improving children’s access to primary and secondary education through construction of modern school and learning blocks.

“So far, we have built 3,302 school and classroom blocks in Malawi. Out of this figure, 240 have been built in Kasungu. Twenty percent of all the classrooms in Kasungu are buildOn school blocks. In 2019, we will build 50 school blocks in Malawi,” said buildOn Country Director Robert Lughlin.

The partnership on 29 July 2019 announced a new US$250,000 (approximately K195 million) package for increasing and improving the quality of teaching and learning through construction of modern classroom blocks and teachers’ houses at Mbongozi CDSS.

BuildOn deputy country director, Robert Chikombe, said on the sidelines of a ground-breaking ceremony at Mongozi CDSS on Monday, that the package aims at increasing enrolment and retention of learners in Mthawira Education Zone.

Chikombe said under this project, two semi-detached classroom blocks and two semi-detached teachers’ houses will be constructed at the school.

Ofcourse, Chikombe stressed that the project will build on contributions from the beneficiary communities.

He said the two organisations believe that everyone needs to take responsibility over the future of the country and work together to make education more inclusive to ensure no one is left behind in the pursuit for healthy societies for all.

Chikombe, therefore, disclosed that buildOn and Raising Malawi will seek communities’ commitment to undertaking to promote education for their children, adult literacy and education for the underprivileged.

The communities will also be required to contribute sand, quarry stones and bricks. Of course, in the case of Mongozi CDSS, buildOn has indicated that it will use soil stabilised blocks to achieve its laid down standards.

“Furthermore, beneficiary communities will be required to provide us with a committee, which will steer and oversee the implementation of the whole project. This is to ensure transparency and accountability in the implementation of the project,” Chikombe said.

Raising Malawi Country Director, Adam Gaskins, said he expects that once basic human rights such as that of education are met, social progress will accelerate dramatically in Kasungu.

Gaskins stated that this is what they hope to see as Malawi aspires to realise SDGs and Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III.

Mthawira Primary Education Adviser McBorlingal Tandwe called on stakeholders to assist the government in addressing challenges dogging the education sector.

Tandwe said this is a prerequisite for Malawi to achieve many of the ambitious development goals including the Malabo Declaration, which aims to achieve inclusive growth, sustainable agriculture and improved livelihoods.

STA Ndunga hailed the two organisations saying the modern blocks will increase enrolment and retention in both sections.

The local ruler further expressed hope that the investment being made in education would economically empower his subjects, especially school -going children, to achieve their full potential.

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