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Lighting candle of education among the underprivileged

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Traditional Authority (T/A) Kasakula, in Ntchisi District always looked bereft of any hope for secondary school education for its primary school graduates. The nearest secondary school, Kasakula Day Secondary School, was 35 kilometres away. The school is the only one in Chikho Zone, which has a catchment area of 10 primary schools and an enrolment of 7, 128 learners.
The situation spelt doom and gloom for learners with good academic results.
Seventeen-year-old Ntunase Chafuwa was one of the helpless and hopeless learners. She passed the 2016 Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) but was not selected to a secondary school. Coming from a poor family background, Ntunase saw her education dream up in smoke.
“I was disappointed but decided to repeat Standard Eight since my parents could not afford to send me to a private secondary school,” Ntunase laments.
Ntunase’s story, no doubt, reflects that of many girls and boys whose education future gets nipped in the bud due to unavailability of secondary schools.
Ntunase’s situation is a denial of the fundamental right to education for the youth in the country. Malawi is legally bound to promote access to education among its citizens. Section 25 of the Constitution of Malawi, for instance, says all persons are entitled to education.
Yet, secondary school education uptake in Malawi, let alone Ntchisi, is disappointingly low. According to ripple Africa, a charity organisation working to improve the environment and local education in Malawi, secondary school enrolment rate for girls is 28.8 percent while that for boys is 29.7 percent.
“This is partly due to expensive school fees. It is equally an issue of local access. There are fewer secondary schools than primary schools in Malawi, meaning that, in rural areas, the distance that students have to cover to reach schools is greater [than necessary],” reads a message on the organisation’s website.
The limited access to secondary education makes girls like Ntunase fall prey to early marriage and teenage pregnancies in the country, creating a vicious cycle poverty.
Worse still, denying the girl-child her right to education is said to pose a serious challenge on the realisation of eight of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs.)
But thanks to the intervention by ActionAid Malawi (AAM) and its partners,Ntunase can now afford a smile as she can, finally, access secondary education.
This year, AAM, in partnership with Kasakula Education Network, constructed Katete Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in T/A Kasakula, thereby expanding access to secondary education in the area. Tunashe, having passed the 2017 PSLCE, got selected to Katete CDSS.
“I am happy because my dream of continuing with my education and becoming a nurse was realised,” she says, beaming with hope.
Ntunase believes the opening of Katete CDSS has increased her chances of getting selected to secondary school.
In the 2017/18 academic year, 44 out of 149 learners from Chikho Zone in T/A Kasakula’s area were selected to the newly-constructed Katete CDSS. 22 of the learners are girls. The school opened in September 2017 and was officially handed over to the government on December 16.
Speaking during the hand-over ceremony, AAM Programme Coordinator, Chimwemwe Fabiano, tells those gathered that the donation of Katete CDSS is part of the project ‘Promoting Quality Education through Progressive Domestic Resource Mobilisation’, which has been funded by Norad.
She said the three-year project, which started in 2015, is in line with strategic objective number two of the AAM Country Strategy, which is to improve the quality of public education for poor and vulnerable children, in particular girls, and enhance youths’ participation in poverty reduction initiatives.
“The main goal of the project is to ensure that children, especially girls, have improved access to public education— not just public education, but quality services— financed through greater government support and increases in fair tax revenue,” Fabiano said.
She says identification of the school project was done in consultations with communities and local partners such as Kasakula Education Network. She adds that AAM believes in working through local partners as one way of empowering them as well as ensuring that interventions are sustainable.
Central East Education Division Manager in the Ministry of Education, Billy Banda, describes the donation as timely and in line with the ministry’s policy to expand access to secondary education to students, especially those from the less-privileged backgrounds.
“Access and equity are some of the goals in the National Education Strategic Plan. This is why we are pleased to note that ActionAid has constructed a magnificent school for underprivileged children here in T/A Kasakula,” Banda says.
Now, the sky is surely the limit.

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