District Education Manager (DEM) for Mulanje Gossam Mafuta over the weekend stressed on the importance of giving second chances on education to girls who have fallen in the trap of early pregnancy, emphasizing; “early pregnancy should not be a girl child’s fate”.
Mafuta was speaking on the sidelines of an event organized by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Malawi in which the organization handed over scholastic materials to 50 teen-mothers who were re-enrolled into secondary school on their own at the start of the current school calendar.
According to Mafuta, time and again research has revealed that there’s need for government and organizations to ensure that no single chunk of Malawi’s population is left uneducated if the country is to realize meaningful and sustainable development, hence the need to commend initiatives ADRA has set.
“Times are gone when a girl child would get a life-time damnation for accidentally falling in a pregnancy trap; and it is now time for us to realize that it is the condemnation of such girls that happened in the past that has now ended up increasing the population of illiterate older women and idle housewives in today’s generation, so this should be looked upon as a development issue,” said Mafuta.
The distribution of school uniforms, bags, shoes, socks, calculators and writing materials that took place, falls under an ADRA Malawi project called ‘when mother is a child’ which focuses on changing people’s mindset on the fate of young girls who got pregnant at an early stage.
When mother is a child is a project which ADRA Malawi launched in 2014 and upon its inception it has rescued over 200 girls from early marriages and encouraged them to re-enroll into school.
Speaking in an interview, Project Manager for ‘when mother is a child’ at the Nkando chapter of ADRA Malawi, Judith Kumwenda said the initiative focuses on reducing lack-of-education related poverty, as opposed to encouraging young girls to get pregnant at tender ages.
“We are not trying to glorify teenage pregnancy like some people might misinterpret us, but all we are saying is that these young girls are our children and they still will grow up to make Malawian women for the future generation. So if we are to condemn them, who are we leaving them to?” asked Kumwenda in a rhetoric.
She added that another very important element that this project is touching on is gender imbalance where boys who impregnate the girls go scot-free to continue with their education while girls are not allowed to go back to school even after they deliver.
One of the girls who receiving the support from ADRA Malawi, Mary Matewere got pregnant at the age of 16 when she was in standard 8.
She dropped out of school and engaged into an early marriage which she described as a hall of thorns she had ever lived in.
“My marriage was nothing but trouble. At the age of 16 I was not mature and properly prepared to take the responsibilities over a full household headed by a fellow teenager who also dropped out of school,” lamented Mary nearly shedding a tear.
She further explained that after 5 years of reluctance and fear, she finally gathered enough confidence and courage to break out of her marriage, and at the same time stepped her feet into Form 1 at Namphungo Community Day Secondary School.
“Right now all my focus is on education: I want to pass Form 4 with good grades and try my luck as a nurse or a teacher,” said Mary.
Meanwhile community days secondary schools in the area of Traditional Authority Juma have continue to re-enroll teen mothers who have embraced the back-to-school concept in overwhelming numbers.