Mchoka Girls Club Says NO! to School Drop Outs
Zilani Khonje - Lilongwe Malawi
Lying along the lake shores of Malawi, Salima district in the central region is one of the populated areas. The district is disaster prone with floods and erratic rainfall resulting in loss of cash and food crops for most families. This has seen girls dropping out of school in search of a better life in marriage to support them and their families. Samimi Afick and the mothers group that saved from marriage
Some get married at their own will while others are persuaded by their parents as a means to end poverty in their families. This has for long seen high school drop outs amongst the girl-child. With no proper education and ability to support themselves, girls become more vulnerable to domestic violence.
To reduce violence against girls and women in the area, mothers and the communities in Salima have taken the initiative to keep girls in school for a better future. With technical and financial support from ActionAid through Mother’s Group, Mchoka Girls club in Salima is successfully continues to say no to school drop outs and to woe teenage girls to stay out of marriage and continue with school. This initiative has seen an increase in the number of girls getting back in school.
In 2007 at the age of 15, Samimi Afick from Mchoka Village in Salima, dropped out of school and got married. The once intelligent grade seven pupil gave birth to a daughter. This shattered her long time dream to become a teacher.
“I got married because of poverty, I had no clothes, shoes and having food on the table was a daily problem at home, and this is why I forced myself into marriage,” she explains.
Despite being in marriage, Samimi still desires to continue with her education. A few months after giving birth, she divorced her husband and went back to school.
“The girls club members visited me and encouraged me to go back to school, seeing them singing and counselling me on the importance of staying in school worked for me,” she says.
With support from mothers group which takes care of her child whilst she’s in school, Samimi went back to school and is now an active member of Mchoka girls club.
“We move from door to door, village to village singing and encouraging girls to go back to school, I act as a role model that despite the mistakes we make, we can still go back to school and achieve our goals,” explains Samimi
According to Samimi, Mchoka girls Club has 10 girls who are admitted into the club based on their class performance. This criteria is aimed at encouraging inspiring those who dropped out of school to rejoin.
“As club members, we are supposed to be hard workers doing well in class so that others can learn from us, we also have to be committed not only in class but outside so that we can woe more girls to be in school,” she proudly adds.
A member of Mchoka Mothers group Emily London blames parents and traditional leaders for many school dropouts.
“Corruption is the major problem because when a chief receives a chicken and MK500 ($3.00) he approves the marriage a young girl thereby destroying the girl’s future,” she explains.
According to London, girls club have improved girls education in Salima. “In the past, it was difficult for our daughters to complete their standard eight. But now, we are happy because the girls clubs are very instrumental in promoting their education, they ensure that there are no delays and absenteeism,” she adds.
Mothers groups have taken the responsibility to visit and discuss with parents whose girl child is reported to be absent from school for consecutive days.
“We verify absenteeism with school authority and visit the parents, if they are stubborn, we report to the chief because we want to ensure that our girls reach college level,” she says.
As a commitment to ensure girls stay in school, ActionAid built female teachers houses in rural area with an aim of wooing them to teach in remote areas at the same time act as role models for girls. The fact that more girls stay in school encouraged by the role model, ActionAid support in construction of teachers houses dedicated to female teachers is used as evidence for more houses to be constructed by the government to house female teachers to encourage more role models in the rural areas.
Mchoka Mothers group is thankful for the houses saying “the female teacher is a role model for girls in the rural area. Apart from this, they counsel girls thereby encouraging them to remain in school.”