We are thrilled that 190 Mastercard Foundation Scholars at CAMFED Malawi have secured places at university, after graduating from secondary school. We celebrated the young women’s achievements last month at an event held in Blantyre with the Ministry of Education.
Secondary Student, Malawi
My name is Faith, I live in Malawi. I am the second born of three children. When I was very small, I lived with my family in Mzuzu city and we had a good life. We had enough food to eat and all the basic necessities, but when I was 13 years old my father passed away and my family had to leave the city.
We returned to the village where we originally hailed from and had to start our lives all over again.
My mother had no money to start a business, so she took on piece work — like gardening and harvesting other people’s maize fields — in order to support our family. Despite these struggles at home, I enjoyed going to school and was determined to do well.
I did well in my primary leaving exams, and in 2016 I was pleased to be selected for secondary school. At that time in Malawi, primary school was free, but students at secondary level had to pay tuition fees.* Only two weeks into the new term, there was an announcement saying students who had not paid the fees (MK 5,000 or about US $6) and didn’t have uniforms were not allowed to stay. With no other option, I had to leave school that day and go home.
I was so disappointed and really hoped I would be able to return to school soon. Back at home, my mother had managed to save a little money from piece work and started a small business selling a local speciality street food, called kanyenya, a kind of fried fish. Her earnings were enough to buy food and essentials, but we were still unable to afford my school fees.
I was starting to lose hope when I heard that a CAMFED Mother Support Group would be able to help pay for my school fees and uniform for the first two years of secondary school. I was overjoyed!
For the first time to get the full uniform, everything new, and including exercise books, it felt like a dream.
At last I was back in the classroom! I really enjoyed my lessons and worked hard to catch up, but still my future was uncertain. When I reached Form 2, I heard that the School-Based Committee had recommended me for CAMFED support, and that was not all – the Mother Support Group helped me find a girls’ community hostel to stay in during term time so I did not have to walk the two hour journey any more. Staying in the community hostel really helped my academic performance, as without the long, draining journey I had more energy to participate in study circles. The hostel also had better facilities than my home. I could use the solar lights to do my homework in the evenings. I was really pleased when as part of the support from CAMFED, I was given a portable solar light so I could study more easily at home during the holidays.
For the first time I had everything I needed to do well, and in Form 4, I was proud to become one of the top students in the class! I was the only girl chosen to receive an award for academic performance from the School Based Committee. When asked for the secret to my good grades, I say:
These opportunities are rare, so I know I need to study hard so that I can achieve my dreams. I want to become a journalist and television presenter to inspire other girls in my community to not give up on their education, even when it feels tough.
When I leave school, I’m looking forward to joining the CAMFED Association, as I know I will find other like-minded women who will support me and spur me on to achieve my goals
*Although The Government of Malawi abolished tuition fees in public secondary schools in 2018, many students still face significant barriers to learning including affording uniforms, textbooks, materials, and transportation costs. Malawi faces a chronic shortage of secondary school places, with less than half of students who pass the primary leaving exam offered a place at a secondary school, with successful students often travelling far out of their village to attend their nearest school.
Victoria was supported through school by CAMFED and is now studying Nursing and Midwifery at University. In the future she wants to improve the healthcare services in her community and inspire other girls to reach their potential.