Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Tusekile Munkhondya
Being aware of the adventure of living in a rural community, I had a lot of preconceived expectations of how life would be, the people, culture, and values that define what a traditional society is. Among the things was the plight of the education of a girl child considering many stories I have heard growing up. Arranged marriages and early marriages are common in many areas and have greatly led to school dropouts. Settling in the community, expected to find a number of such cases. Unfortunately, I never heard of any cases. I thought all was rosy that the community was free from such instances. Alas! My judgment has been poor. After weeks of blending with the community, I was introduced to the school committee. The first meeting I attended proved my expectations right, the meeting was to address school dropouts which were on a rise due to early marriages.
With keen interest, I followed the proceedings of the meeting. It was shocking learning of the strategy the community has in marrying off young girls, that even young girls and boys have adopted. Being an area near the Malawi-Mozambican border in Mwanza, the school-going girls and boys cross the border to get married and seek refuge for fear of getting their marriage dissolved and others for fear of facing the law for marrying a young girl who is a minor. It pained me and I resolved to start Volunteering at the local school to act as a role model and interact with a few girls from my community who had dropped out of school.
I had a chat with one of the victims, Rabecca , who is currently nursing a child. She said she dropped out of school in standard 7 and got married. Her learning difficulties in class made her lose interest in school. I heard her say; ‘‘natopa ndi sukulu koma aphunzitsi adadandaula” (I got tired of school, and my teachers got disappointed with my decision). She further explained that she dropped out for no reason but most of the girls do because they have a man in their lives who promised to take care of them. Another victim also explained that her challenge was poverty and she said: ‘‘ndimati ndikalowa n’class chomwe ndimaganiza ndikuti tikadya chani kunyumba’’ (I would think of what we going to eat when I get home rather than concentrating on my studies).
Through these stories, I made my resolve and promised to make a difference and start Volunteering as a teacher with an aim of inspiring young girls. I believe this will inspire many young girls in my area because they will be able to look up to me.