December 08, 2015

Standing up for girls’ education in rural Malawi

Marshall Dyton

Global Youth Ambassador from Malawi

GYA Marshall Dyton from Malawi talks to students at his old primary school in Chipunga


November 20 was Universal Children’s Day - a day set by the United Nations to commemorate the rights of children around the world, one of them being education.

In Malawi, as A World at School Global Youth Ambassador, I took the opportunity to launch a Girl Child Education Movement (GCEM) - a movement which is working with over 75 Back to School committees, with GCEM focusing much on girls in Traditional Authority Bwana Nyambi in Mangochi district.

OBJECTIVES

The movement was introduced to champion the girl-child education after observing that girls in the area do not go further with their education, especially those from poor family backgrounds, due to poverty, early marriages and child labour.

The launch was done at my former primary school, Chipunga, to sensitise people to the benefits to a nation of educating a girl-child.

The event received a high patronage. The meeting was graced by a Ward Councillor, Primary Education Adviser (PEA) for Mkumba Zone, teachers from other schools, parents and guardians, and more than 17 chiefs including Traditional Authority Bwana Nyambi.

I decided to establish the movement after observing that in more than 10 years fewer than five girls have been selected to secondary school from that institution, yet early marriages are numerous.

I have so far rescued two girls, Lukia Ajasi and Amina Jossam (pictured below), who had their dreams shattered before their eyes due to financial problems.

GYA Marshall Dyton from Malawi talks to students at his old primary school in Chipunga with Lukia and Amina

LUKIA’S STORY

Lukia comes from a very poor family background, so like Amina. But Lukia’s story is different.

During weekends the 15-year-old goes together with her twin sister - who is Standard 5 at the same school - to the forest to collect firewood which she sells to get a school fund as well as for her day-to-day survival.

She has been doing this for more than seven years now. Her mum is old and has no any means to support them. The family depends on these two young girls as the bread winners.

"I don't feel bad because I know one day God will answer our prayers and we will be relieved from this bondage of poverty. That is why I work hard in education as I believe that is the only key to the problems we are facing today," says Lukia.

This girl has a vision of becoming a professional doctor to serve people in the country. She is currently in Standard 8 at Chipunga Primary school in Mangochi district. Amina is in Standard 8 too.

As someone who is coming from the same area, and who has witnessed some of the challenges, I was very touched with the situations the girls are facing, especially those in remote areas.

I have committed to use 10% of the profit from my business to support these girls up to the entire four years if selected to a secondary school.

However, both are very pessimistic about their future to secondary school in terms of school fees.

GYA Marshall Dyton from Malawi talks to students at his old primary school in Chipunga

In this community there are a lot of girls who have a similar story of Lukia but they don’t have an option rather than getting married at a tender age.

Lukia is always undermined by others that she cannot do anything because of the economic background of her family and also being a girl. She never listens to these people but still looks forward for her dreams to be realised.

On that day, I donated about 40 exercise books to the two girls. I also ordered other girls who dropped out from school without proper reason to go back to continue with their education.

I gave them 72 hours, failing which their parents will be taken to a traditional court which was supported by the Group Village Headman and the T/A.

I was very happy to see all stakeholders joining me in this journey including Traditional Authority Bwananyambi. He is also serious when it comes to Back to School projects.

He revealed that he has instituted over 75 committees that will be working hand in hand with my movement to make sure that no any child should be at home without proper reason.

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