ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE, INCREASING SECONDARY EDUCATION. A SAVE THE CHILDREN AMBITION FOR MALAWIAN CHILDREN
By Lindiwe Bandazi
Poor access to schools and lack of learning resources are some of the biggest barriers to education for children in Malawi. In Mwalasi area of Machinga district, the most difficult challenge for many children is access to secondary school. The area has 14 primary school but no secondary school, leaving children to ‘scramble for places in schools in faraway places’.
For instance, Mary a 14-year-old girl is currently completing primary school at Mwalasi primary, but for her and likewise many other children especially girls in her village her ambition to enroll in and complete secondary school may be farfetched.
Senior village group headman Nkhumbwa in Traditional Authority (T/A) Nsanama of Machinga district describes this situation as the root cause of early marriages and teenage pregnancies as parents feel they do not have any other option.
Save the Children aims to change this fate.
With funding of 10 million US dollars from USAID, Save the Children through the Apatseni Mwayi Atsikana Aphunzire project (AMAA) will construct five secondary schools in Machinga district and another 5 schools in its neighboring district Balaka.
A symbolic ground breaking ceremony was held on 20th November 2017 at one of the five proposed school sites, Mwalasi in T/A Nsanama. Mary and other children from Mwalasi primary school told the Minister of Education, Science and Technology Hon. Bright Msaka and United States ambassador to Malawi Virgina Palmer present at the occasion that the construction of the school will promote secondary school education.
In her speech to the minister and the ambassador, Mary talked about the situations the children face.
“It has been a challenge for us learners to have a chance to be selected to different schools”, she said citing the inadequate number of secondary schools in her area which according to representative for TA Nsanama has 14 primary schools and no secondary school.
“Most of the learners that have been selected to go to secondary schools dropout due to long distances which is approximately 30 kilometers”, she added.
Representative for T/A Nsanama, speaking at the ground breaking event said the construction of secondary schools will give chiefs more energy and incentive to continue fighting child marriage as now parents will no longer have an excuse to marry off their daughters.
Also speaking at the ceremony, US Ambassador Virginia Palmer, said, making more places in schools (through increasing access) is the one thing that will transform Malawi. The ambassador also commended the community for their pledge to construct teacher’s houses around the schools.
In his address as guest of honour, the minister of education commended USAID for the financial support enabling the construction of schools and promised the community more support from government towards education.
Through the AMAA project, Save the Children aims to reduce child marriages and early pregnancies and promote the wellbeing of #EveryLastChild through coordinated interventions that include construction of a girls dormitory in Mzimba, providing bursaries to learners, and promoting participation of men towards girls education through a mentorship program entitled ‘real fathers’.
In Machinga Save the children will construct schools in Mkotamo and Ntalala beginning 2017.