Secondary Scholar, Malawi
Chikondi grew up in poverty in rural Malawi. She dropped out after primary school. Chikondi would have remained trapped in a cycle of poverty as a child bride had it not been for the love and dedication of her local Mother Support Group, which made sure she received CAMFED support to finish her education – against the odds.
Chikondi, a second-born daughter in a family of seven children comes from southern Machinga, one of Malawi’s poorest districts. Due to extreme poverty, her parents and five of her siblings trek great distances in search of work. Meanwhile, Chikondi stays with her elderly grandmother who also lives in poverty.
Chikondi completed her primary school education in 2011. She was selected to attend secondary school, but her education stalled when she became pregnant and could not proceed to Form 1. Many girls in poverty living in sub-Saharan Africa succumb to pressure to engage in pre-marital sex in exchange for money to support themselves.
“I felt pain in my heart that I would no longer proceed with my education, but there was nothing I could do,” she says. While Chikondi contemplated her next step in life, the members of the local Mother Support Group provided her with guidance and support. They recommended that she follow the process to reserve a place for herself in secondary school, and wait until after the delivery of her baby to resume her education.
In 2013, Chikondi enrolled in secondary school, but she faced the challenge of paying school fees. At that time, two Mother Support Groups worked together to make sure Chikondi would not need to drop out of school again by helping her through the verification process to receive CAMFED’s support.
I have never felt happy like the time the Teacher Mentor confirmed to me that I would be getting the full bursary package from CAMFED.
Even with school fees paid, courageous girls like Chikondi still face obstacles in completing their education. Walking long distances to school endangers their safety and puts them at risk of dropping out. Muddy roads brought on by the rainy season can lead to absenteeism, and ultimately impact academic performance. Chikondi has also faced insults and doubts from others because of being a teenage mother. “In my community no woman has defied the odds to go back to school after marriage,” she said. “But I can proudly say that my eyes are fixed on my goal and I have no intentions of turning back. I will be the first accountant in my village and am sure a lot of girls will learn from me.”
If only our schools had girls’ hostels to lessen the long distance, enough teaching and learning resources, and more bursary support for more needy girls in our districts, the families would change for the better.