The interface was brief: one hour. The impact was meant to last – and, to the satisfaction of the Kanengo Women Police Network, the organisers, it is, indeed, lasting.
The network might not have chosen a better moment to motivate the Standard Eight girls of Mwanzeze and Kawale schools in Chiwamba, Lilongwe, than a week before the commencement of the 2017 Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) examinations.
Some weeks down the line, the motivation talk still echoes in the ears of the girls, igniting a burning desire to rise above their dreams and reach the levels of the women in neat uniform or even beyond that.
Tombi Daniel, a 16-year-old pupil from Mwanzenze Primary School, told this reporter at a youth event held recently in the area that the May 11 motivation talk inspired her to think of going beyond with her education.
“The talk was touching and we were all inspired to be like the police officers,” she said with a dreamy look, and continued: “That day when I went home, I told my parents about how wonderful it felt when I had closed my eyes and visualised myself in a police uniform just like the officers in front of us!
“My parents were so moved with the news and they promised to make sure that nothing stops me from achieving my dreams, long as they live.”
Such is the passion the women in uniform from Kanengo Police instilled in the Standard Eight girls from Mwanzeze and Kawale primary schools in Traditional Authority(T/A) Chimutu, Lilongwe.
Chiwamba and surrounding areas in T/A Chimutu has over the years faced high dropout rates of girls both in primary and secondary school, according to the Centre for Youth Development and Social Empowerment (CYDESE), a Non-Government Organisation vigilant about girl-child education in the area.
Under a special programme called Child Protection, the Kanengo Police Women Network, working closely with CYDESE, stepped in and held a motivation talk for senior primary school girls.
Mwanzeze Primary School in Chiwamba hosted the talk on May 11 2017 and participants were all girls in Standards Six to Eight from the two schools.
The reception the women received upon arrival at the host school foretold the impact the interface would have.
So, they sat there; 15 police officers of various ranks facing over 60 young girls. Their mission was simple: to stir the desire in the girls and stimulate their appetite for a future many would envy.
Led by their Chairperson, Assistant Superintendent Florence Moyo, selected members of the network took turns in narrating their individual journeys to success, holding the 12-to-16-year-old girls spellbound with longing and admiration.
The officers encouraged the girls to embrace self-esteem and stay focused for them to realise their dreams.
“The issue of girls dropping out of school in Chiwamba, which is part of our policing areas, has always been of great concern and we believe this talk a week before the PSLC examinations will energise the Standard Eight candidates,” explained Moyo in an interview after the talk.
She added: “We have also emphasised how best the Standard Eight girls can keep themselves safe during the time they will stay at home awaiting results. This is a critical period during which we all need to hold hands to ensure the girls are safe from any hindrances.”
Apart from the motivational talk, the network gave each of the PSLCE candidates a mathematical set to use during examinations, while Standard Six and Seven girls got a pen each.
Somegirls from Standard Six and Seven got a mathematical set each as a token of appreciation for their hard work and outstanding performances in class.
As law enforcers, the network also took advantage of the interface to warn teachers that they risk facing the wrath of the law if they are found making sexual advances towards the school girls.
The network’s initiative excited not only the pupils but even some parents who represented mother groups that provide advice and counselling to young girls in surrounding communities..
CYDESE in conjunction with communities established these groups to protect girls from early and child marriages and encourage them to complete their education.
“We are happy with what the network has done and we will also play our part in safeguarding the girls while they are on holiday,” said Jennifer Makiyi, a member of Mwanzenze Mother Group.
Makiyi disclosed that with the help of CYDESE, their group has managed to send some girls back to school by whisking them away from the snares of early marriage.
There is growing hope that with such efforts, girls in Chiwamba area may begin to rise to the occasion and make themselves first models of their generations.
But, perhaps, such efforts ought to be augmented by creating a more attractive and girl-friendly learning environment as observed by Head teacher for Mwanzeze Primary School, Daniel Mkwaila.
While finding no suitable words to express their appreciation for the Kanengo Police Women Network’s plausible move in promoting education, the head teacher warned that all gains would be lost if some of the challenges in girl-child education remain unaddressed.
“The biggest challenge here is that there are no desks and our pupils sit on the floor,” said Mkwaila.
“And since most of the girls in the upper classes are adolescents, it becomes embarrassing for one to lift up a leg and improvise it as a table when writing or to stand up to answer a question in class.”
Another concern in Chiwamba Zone where Mwanzeze and Kawale schools are situated, according to Mkwaila, is that there is only one community day secondary school (CDSS), Chiwamba, to cater for 12 primary schools.
“There is need for one or two more CDSSs to absorb more pupils including girls. Right now, selection of pupils from the primary schools to Chiwamba CDSS is limited,”he said.
Low number of female teachers in primary schools within Chiwamba Zone is another drawback.
Mkwaila said there are less than 30 female teachers in the zone and that mentoring and inspiring a girl child in such a situation becomes a difficult task.
All said, the thrust of the matter is that Kanengo Police Women Network and CYDESE through the mother groups may just have started.
But, true to Mkwaila’sobservation, their efforts need to be complemented by availability of desks and more CDSSs. They also need more female professionals in teaching and other disciplines to act as immediate and all-time models for the girls, just like the women police officers have done.
The women in uniform, with the sparkling silver of eagle insignia on their caps and uniforms, have played their part. The eagles have demonstrated to Chiwamba girls what it means to soar above one’s dream.
The battle of keeping Chiwamba girls in school may be half won given the enthusiasm already aroused in the likes of Daniel. History will, for sure, hold all players accountable if they look the other way and allow such passion in the girls to die a natural death.
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