Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Margaret Magombo
The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic in Malawi has unsettled the already troubled life of the citizens of the landlocked nation. Malawi is predominantly made up of citizens whose daily sustenance is hand-to-mouth. The vulnerable of its society have had their worries doubled with the pandemic. Girls from the rural vicinity, specifically from the Nsondole community, have had a great share of challenges during this period of the global crisis.
Intensified by culture, girls from the area are often pressured into marriage institutions with different forms of coercion. Many tend to find solace and shield from early marriages at school. Presently, with the closure of schools, girls in the area are more than vulnerable. The story of Mercy (not her real name) a form four girl at Nsondole CDSS is a good example of the struggle girls are facing in the area. Mercy has been forced to get married after discovering that she is pregnant. Apparently, her single mother who relies on farming cannot provide for her and her yet to be born baby. Meeting Mercy, her frustrations, hopelessness and helplessness are very evident. She hardly wants to meet her teachers and her friends from Nsondole CDSS out of shame. I made an extra effort to meet and have a chat with her. Through our little chat, Mercy was at pains from the beginning to the end as her reality is too bitter to be swallowed by herself. However, I encouraged her not to lose hope as she can still go back to school after delivery to realise her dreams of becoming a nurse.
Silence of different organizations that spearhead girls education in rural communities during this time of the pandemic is too loud. One can only ascertain that perhaps this should have been the time different stakeholders claiming to have a softer spot for girls education and that of the marginalized child should have been vocal. With the dates for the re-opening of schools unknown, the uncertainty that vulnerable ambitious girl faces is just too unbearable. The temptation of succumbing to pressure from marriage suitors seems to be under sieging many of the girls.
The introduced online platform supported by the government of Malawi is indeed a commendable effort, however it is a fact that cannot be disputed that only few learners from rural areas can have access to the same. Most guardians of the learners from these rural schools can hardly afford mobile gargets with features to access online reading materials, let alone afford the same to their children. Broadcast of lessons through radios as an initiative cannot go without being mentioned, but the household chores that burden girls alienates the girl child from benefiting the way she should have.
The school environment experience is an advantage that is more than needed to the girl. The self-esteem, confidence and determination that comes through different forms of interactions positions learning within the walls of the school a bonus.
The CorpsAfrica Volunteer being aware of the struggle the girl child faces during this troubling time has been trying to be conducting guidance and counselling sessions with some girl learners from Nsondole Community Secondary School to equip them with skills to survive pressures in this time. Additionally, preoccupying the girl learners in the area with the opening of kitchen gardens has been another effort taken by the volunteer to rescue girls from taking the wrong path. In the face of all the girl learner is facing, it should be the responsibility of everyone in different capacities to give the girl child a hand. It is us who shall be held responsible by the end of it all if we fail to do the needful.