Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Sarah Kazira
If you were to visit my community, Nsondole, it would not take you a week to notice that most girls do not attend school. Most girls only get to attend lower classes of primary school, the numbers start dropping in Standard 7. The numbers reach a new low at secondary where only a few girls have the privilege of attending. So many situations lead to girls dropping out of school, some cannot afford secondary school fees, some get pregnant while in school and it is not unusual for young girls to drop out of school and get married as young as 14 years old.
Many organizations have come up to help with this problem and are doing a commendable job of sponsoring the girls with school fees and some basic necessities to make sure they stay in school. Organizations like AGE AFRICA, CAMFED, and STORYTIME. Today, however, I would like to talk about the unsung champions of girls’ education and this is the Mother’s group.
The Mother’s group is an initiative by the Malawi Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) started in 2008 to support girls education. These are women from the schools catchment area selected to help with issues concerning girl education. They work as volunteers and their duties mostly lie in guidance and counseling or managing the school garden.
The Nsondole Mother’s group consists of 17 women; 10 from the primary school and 7 from the secondary school and it is heart warming to see that this group of women are taking girls education seriously. I have seen these women sacrifice their time to make sure that girls continue to go to school. I have seen them walk tirelessly for long distances to save girls from early marriages. I have witnessed them come together to do piece works (odd jobs) just to buy a girl they barely know school uniform. They better not hear that you are marrying off your child, or they come knocking on your door the same day just like Chief Kachindamoto in Dedza is doing . Even when a girl got pregnant while in school, they will help her get back after delivery.
One woman told me she has been nicknamed “Oswantchito” roughly translated “somebody with nothing to do.” People call her this because she does not get paid for her services but yet she works relentlessly to make sure girls go to school. Asked if this does not bother her, she said all she wants to see is many girls in her community get the education the she never had the chance of getting. She, and the rest of the group members strongly believe education is key to success and they will go as far as they can to make sure that not only do the girls go to school, but they also have a chance of succeeding.
Recently, they have volunteered to look after the Standard 8 girls at their self boarding. This means spending nights away from their families and they are willing to do this for free because they really are passionate about girls education. I am sure these are the kind of people Michelle Obama had in mind when launching the Let Girls Learn Campaign . There are so many remarkable things that these people are doing to support not only girl education but even boys education as well. As much as they cannot afford to pay school fees for any of the girls but in whatever way they can help, they do it whole heartedly and I believe these are the kind of people that are needed to advance the education of the girl child. So far, they are the group that have inspired me to do more.