Organizations form consortium to promote girl-child education

Mangochi, Four non-governmental organizations have joined hands in a project, Her Education Her Right, aimed at promoting girl’s education in 10 selected Community Day Secondary Schools (CDSS) across the country.

This was disclosed at a stakeholders meeting held at Mangochi Town Council on Tuesday where the organizations namely; Education Expertise Development Foundation (EEDF), Girls Empowerment Network (GENET), Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education (CYECE), and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) briefed the District Executive Committee (DEC) on the project.

Presenting the project, EEDF programme officer Moffat Njati, said Her Education Her Right was a three-year project (2017 � 2019) under the Improving Secondary Education in Malawi (ISEM) programme funded by the EU and another organisation called Edukans.

Njati said the project’s goal was to ensure increased enrolment, retention and completion rates for vulnerable girls in 10 selected CDSSs in Chikwawa, Blantyre, Mangochi, Chiradulu, Thyolo, Zomba, Nkhatabay, Mzuzu and Karonga.

The project is designed to address the challenges that hinder girls from completing their secondary school education such as long distances to school, teenage pregnancies, early marriages, lack of school fees, school-related gender-based violence and social-cultural norms that ignore importance of girls’ education, Njati said.

He said each of the four organizations in the consortium would play individual role in addressing the challenges depending on area of expertise.

EEDF’s role will be to solve the challenge of long distance by distributing 40 bicycles to 40 deserving girls at each CDSS during the project’s period to ease mobility to and from school.

EEDF will distribute 400 bicycles to 400 girls in total and these bicycles will be user-friendly and so unique that they would be easily identifiable by the communities to avoid any form of abuse, Njati said.

He added that EEDF would also provide training to 120 teachers from the target schools in gender responsive language, saying the language and expressions teachers use when addressing girls sometimes contribute to the latter’s failure in education.

The other three partners in the consortium took turns to explain their roles in the new project.

CYECE project coordinator Ignacious Mambo said his organization will solve the challenge of teenage pregnancies and early marriages.

This will be done by mobilizing communities in the creation of safe living spaces for girls especially in self-boarding where studies have shown that girls are exposed to environments that make them vulnerable to early pregnancies.

In self-boarding schools the girls are on their own away from parental care and guidance; the teachers hardly monitor them and the surrounding communities do not care because the children are not theirs, Mambo said.

This leaves the girls vulnerable to boys who take advantage of the gap and impregnate them, he added, making a reference to a recent scenario in Mchinji where 38 girls were reported to have been impregnated in one school year alone at one CDSS.

On the other hand, GENET will tackle the issue of school fees by providing bursaries to 2,800 needy girls across the ten target schools, according to the organization’s officer Taonga Kachilonda Phiri.

GENET will also help in the establishment of girls’ clubs where 800 girls from the ten schools will be involved in discussions on issues that would promote their education and their day to day living.

TUM as a fourth partner will provide comprehensive sexuality education using the ‘World Starts With Me Model’ to 150 students and 30 teachers in the target schools, according to the organization’s coordinating officer, Pilirani Kamaliza.

The targeted CDSSs include Mfera CDSS in Chikwawa, Namiwawa in Blantyre, Makanjira in Mangochi, Nkhande in Chiradzulu, Mikombe in Thyolo, Mayaka in Zomba, St. Augustine in Nkhata Bay, Chibavi in Mzuzu, Lufilya and St. Ann’s in Karonga.

The Mangochi DEC welcomed the project in the district but advised the implementing consortium to critically look at issues surrounding the management and maintenance of the bicycles.

Source: Malawi News Agency MANA