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Taking girls towards the education path

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By Emmanuel Chirwa:

VEGA—My performance has improved

Jennifer Vega, 16, covers 15 kilometres from Monday to Friday to get to Mfera Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in Chikwawa District in the hope that, once through with school, she would see better days.

“I often arrive at school tired and late. To make matters worse, the school lacks materials necessary for one to succeed in education. We have few trained teachers, no library and laboratory and limited furniture,” she says.

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This is also the case with learners at Namiwawa Community Day Secondary School in Blantyre. In the case of the latter, it has produced parliamentarians and policymakers but its infrastructure remains dilapidated.

Fortunately, such problems have not gone unnoticed, thanks to initiatives such as Improving Secondary Education in Malawi Programme, otherwise known as Her Education, Her Right Project. The K450 million European Union-funded programme aims at improving access to secondary education in Malawi.

Through this programme, school infrastructure is being erected, needy students are offered bursaries and those who cover long distances to get to school are provided with bicycles and undergo life skills mentoring, among other benefits.

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That is how Vega found herself owning a bicycle.

“I now arrive early for classes, have ample time for studies at home and my performance has improved,” she says.

Tadala Austin, a form three student at Namiwawa CDSS, echoes the sentiments.

“Before the intervention, we could use shortcuts that exposed us to sexual and other forms of abuse. Now that we have bicycles, we use normal roads where we are safe,” she narrates.

The program is being implemented by a consortium of five organisations namely Edukans Foundation, Education Expertise Development Foundation, Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education, Girls Empowerment Network and Teachers Union of Malawi.

NSAPATO—Girls’ dropout rates are worrisome

Edukans Foundation Country Representative, Limbani Nsapato, says the goal of the programME is to increase enrolment, retention and completion rates for vulnerable girls in 10 CDSSs in NINE districts of Malawi.

“The dropout rate for girls in community day secondary schools is overwhelming. Among the factors leading to the situation are long distance covered to get to school, lack of school fees and other needs, early pregnancies, lack of motivation or interest in education and many others. We believe the coming in of the initiative will complement global efforts in the promotion of girl’s education,” he said.

Through the project, 400 students (330 girls and 70 boys) have been provided with bicycles, 597 have benefitted from bursaries (570 girls and 27 boys), 250 girls out of 400 are living in safer self-boarding, among other things.

Namiwawa Community Day Secondary School Deputy Head teacher, Sibongire Nkhonjera, says the project has enhanced quality service delivery at the institution.

“The teacher-student ratio was very huge. At times, a teacher was managing a class of close to 200 learners which compromised quality service delivery. With construction of new facilities and provision of adequate books and furniture, we have decongested the classes and are now assured of quality service delivery,” she says.

Her counterpart at Mfera CDSS, Gerald Mitukwe beams with hope.

“The school used to be a single stream and the enrolment rate of girls was very low. Moreover, when progressing to higher classes, more girls used to drop out of school.

“But, now, the enrollment rate for girls has tremendously improved. This academic year, we have had no case of drop out and that makes us proud,” he says.

Education Expertise Development Foundation Executive Director, Robert Mponela, expressed satisfaction with the project’s achievements.

“It is very encouraging to hear positive stories of the project’s impact,” he says.

United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals calls for, among other things, improvement in access to education from primary, secondary, tertiary to skills training levels.

However, only a multi-sectoral approach can help stakeholders register positive results.

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