Advancing Girls’ Education (AGE) in Africa has challenged secondary school going girls in the Shire Highlands Education Division to take responsibility in breaking barriers they face during school if they are to benefit from their education.
AGE Africa is a girl education focused organization that is conducting several activities aimed at improving girls’ education in the division through the reduction of girls’ school drop-outs that are known to be rampant within the division’s jurisdiction.
According to Program and Learning Manager for AGE Africa Lemon Chipwatali, his organization has noted that much as it and other organizations have over the years been trying to free girls from impediments in their education, some of the girls’ attitude leaves a lot to be desired.
Speaking on the sidelines of an open day organized by his organization with an aim of reminding citizens of their primary right to support girls’ education Chipwatali challenged the girls to ensure that they are not acting contrary to their calls for support.
“The responsibility to educate girls in the country lies in the hands of every citizen, that’s why we are reminding everyone that they need to fulfill this responsibility, but again we want to call on girls who are the ones to benefit from this fight that they should make sure that their attitude towards education is impressive so that people can really make efforts to support them,” said Chipwatali.
During the open day ceremony, girls representing female students from Thuchila, Namalowe and Milonga Community Day Secondary Schools presented challenges that they face during their education and challenged various responsible government departments, guardians and society at-large to address the issues.
According to AGE Africa’s observation, a good percentage of girls who dropped out of school in the Shire Highlands Education Division during the 2014/15 secondary school academic year did so due to teenage pregnancies and early marriages: things that Chipwatali said could easily be avoided.
Commenting on the hurdles that girls face both in school and in their society, one of the girls from Thuchila Community Day Secondary School, Bridget Namowa conceded that most secondary school girls fall into easy traps set by men in society and sometimes male teachers in school, thereby wasting their education chances.
“Much as we girls call for support from other people, sometimes we also do things that dishearten the people that are there to support us. For instance while AGE Africa is here with advocacy programmes aimed at building our capacity, some girls are still getting pregnant while in school and dropping out at the same time; a thing that was supposed to be history by now,” explained Bridget, a 15 year old from Nkando Village in Mulanje district.
However the Form 1 student was quick to add that lack of guardians’ attention to girls in school is one major contributing factor to their failure to proceed with education.
“Sometimes the lack of interest in our parents and guardians in our education removes all the confidence and self esteem from us because when your guardian shows that he/she has no hope on you to do well in education you easily accept it as a fact and let go of all your hard working spirit,” she said.
Among other things, AGE Africa provides education bursaries and learning materials to vulnerable girls who are doing well in school, and it also facilitated the introduction of after-class chats where girls discuss issues affecting their education and brainstorm on the possible ways of breaking barriers that they face.
Emphasizing on the relevance of AGE Africa’s interventions, Education Division Manager for Shire Highlands Christopher Naunje hailed the organizations for introducing chats; “a new tool that has proved to be successful in changing the mind set of girls on issues of education”.
Said Naunje; “In this set up girls are allowed to express themselves freely among other girls and that also boosts their confidence that they start to be able to present their views in public and demand for that which is their right.”
The EDM further bemoaned shortage of girls’ washrooms in secondary schools which he said also contributes to girls’ absenteeism during their menstruation periods their by reducing their class performance.
A total of 875 girls dropped out of school in the 2015/16 academic year, with early marriages and teenage pregnancies being the most common reasons, followed by lack of school fees and long school distances.
The open day kick-started with a two kilometer solidarity walk involving female students from various secondary schools, their guardians and invited guests where they chanted songs with messages directed at promotion of girls’ education.