Keeping the girl-child in school the Thyolo way
To be a girl is to face multiple challenges.
To appreciate this statement, one needs to travel no further than Thyolo District in the Southern Region. And, in Thyolo, one does not need to travel further than Kankhomba Primary School, where girls who have remained in school talk of facing a number of challenges.
However, their will to remain in school seems to be stronger than self-doubt that, surely, there must be light at the end of the tunnel.
One girl, who simply identified herself as Jacqueline, said she knows of friends, aged between 14 and 20 years, who have been forced to drop out of school to either marry or help with household chores.
“Not many girls beat the odds. Some parents prefer to keep the male child in school and leave the girl-child at home. Sometimes, boys bully girls. There are a lot of challenges I can point at,” she said.
However, organisations and well-wishers are not taking such challenges lying down.
For example, the African Network for the Prevention and Protection of Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN)-Malawi Chapter, in collaboration with pupils from St Patrick’s International Primary School in Blantyre, on Tuesday took their ‘Thinking Future, Keeping Girls in School’ campaign to Kankhomba Primary School in Thyolo.
The two groups awarded 50 learners who performed well last term with certificates and school items such as bags, books and writing materials worth K350 000. 00.
The money for buying the items was raised by learners from St Patrick’s through a fundraising concert held on Monday. It is a typical case of children coming to the aid of fellow children.
For Kankhomba Primary School patron, Lifa Misoya, the intervention by ANPPCAN-Malawi Chapter and pupils from St Patrick’s International Primary School came at the right time.
Misoya observed that there were many cases of girls dropping out of school before the campaign started in 2016.
“Most girls are forced into early marriages in this area of Group Village Head Kankhomba. As such, most learners were absconding classes, being forced into marriage or dropping out of school due to lack of resources. This campaign has helped in reducing school dropout rates and the gifts will, therefore, motivate them to stay in school,” Misoya said.
Misoya said most girls do not go far with their education because of various cultural practices, observing that the issue of early marriages tops the list.
“In this area, forced marriages are rampant. In fact, when the head teacher of this school started working here, there was a high rate of absenteeism, especially among girls. So, when we sat down, we decided to establish a club to help the pupils stay in school,” Misoya said.
Misoya said that, soon after establishing a club at the school, ANPPCAN-Malawi Chapter offered to help the school run the club.
“The organisation offered us training, in terms of child rights protocols, and how we can keep the learners in school. After the training, we trained 30 pupils and the organisation left everything in our hands. So far, we have trained 100 pupils and we have noticed a great change. Cases of absenteeism have decreased, along with cases of school dropout and forced marriages,” Misoya said.
Misoya also said there was an improvement in girls’ pass rate.
“Out of the 50 learners that have been awarded today, 60 percent are girls. And this is a good development. The programme has really helped us achieve this milestone,” he said.
According to ANPPCAN Programme Manager, Vauban Marie, the two groups wanted to raise awareness on issues that force girls to drop out of school.
“We conducted various trainings with learners, teachers, traditional leaders, members of the community and parents-teacher associations. Basically, we teach them about child rights, child protection, early marriages, HIV and Aids, dangers of early pregnancies and domestic and sexual violence, among others,” Marie said.
Marie said they were working with Kankhomba, Ligovwa and Sawani primary schools in Thyolo.
One of the learners from St Patricks, Jean Chirwa, said it was a pleasure raising money for Kankhomba Primary School.
“We really hope that we will continue to help pupils to remain in school. We are happy to be part of helping those in need,” Chirwa said.
Those who need evidence can just talk to Group Head Village Kankhombe, who acknowledged on Tuesday that the initiative has really helped his community.
“We came up with by-laws which help us punish parents and guardians who marry-off their children. Anyone found forcing their children into marriage is required to pay a certain amount of money or a goat,” Kankhombe said.
ANPPCAN-Malawi Chapter is a pan African network that promotes child rights and child protection in Africa. Its mission is to enhance, in partnership with others, the prevention and protection of children from all forms of maltreatment, thus ensuring that the rights of children are realised.
ANPPCAN’s 22 chapters respond to the specific needs of children in their countries by developing appropriate programme interventions. The head office implements national and regional interventions on children that include direct programme intervention, advocacy on specific issues, and networking and partnership building of the chapters and stakeholders.
However, the responsibility of translating paperwork into action rests with national chapters who, through initiatives such as the one being implemented in Thyolo, take girls, one by one, out of the jaws of marriage and absenteeism.
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