Senior Chief establishes fund to support girls’ education and end child marriage
Senior Chief saves Latifa Josephy from dropping out of school in Malawi-Maureen Kawerama.
Malawi-Latifa Josephy, 20, of Namaninga village, Senior Chief Bwananyambi in Mangochi district, could have been added to the statistics of school dropouts in her village were it not for the goodwill of the senior chief, writes Maureen Kawerama.
When she got selected for Masuku Community Day Secondary in 2019, her dream almost got shattered because her parents could not afford to pay the K12,500 tuition fees.
“I stayed for almost six months at home because the school could not admit me without school fees,” says Latifa.
Latifa says when she saw no window of assistance, she opted for marriage, and her parents supported her with this idea.
She says they entered into a pre-arranged marriage known as chitomero when she was 17 years old.
According to her, as preparations were underway, her parents received a letter from Senior Chief Bwananyambi questioning the marriage.
In her letter, the chief told them she would support her through her Bwananyambi Education Fund.
“After hearing the news, I was so excited that I decided to end the relationship with the man, and now I am in form three, continuing my education so that I can achieve my dream of becoming a nurse,” said the excited Latifa.
16-year-old Stella Zimamoto, from Naimipwi Village, also dropped out of school and got married due to a lack of fees.
Latifa and Stella are among 25 girls from national, district, and community day secondary schools who are receiving bursaries from the Bwananyambi Education Fund.
The fund is sponsoring 79 students, of whom 54 are boys and 25 are girls.
“As a traditional leader, I have the responsibility to end this malpractice in my area," said Senior Chief Bwananyambi.
Bwananyambi discloses that child marriages are still a prominent cultural practice in the district, with more than 40 percent of girls getting married before reaching the constitutional marriage age.
Together with her fellow traditional leaders, they decided to establish the Bwananyambi Education Fund, where each village head contributes K1,000 every month and a group village head contributes K2,000.
As a senior chief, Bwananyambi contributes K5,000 monthly, plus a contribution from the Constituency Development Fund and the Mangochi District Council Social Welfare office.
According to the traditional leader, so far, they have managed to end 500 early marriages where 300 were sent back to school. “Last year only we ended 58 early marriages and 38 of the girls are back to school,” added the Senior Chief.
A 2018 report of the Borgen Project indicates that the state of girls’ education in Malawi is still in critical condition. It states that with more than 85 percent of its population living in rural areas, Malawi faces the problem of girls being under-enrolled and outnumbered in the majority of its primary schools.
In addition, the report says primary education attendance does not mean that students will automatically go on to pursue higher-level education.
Only six percent of girls graduate from high school each year, with only 2.9 percent going on to seek post-secondary education studies.
What the Borgen reports establish mirrors exactly the situation in Mangochi, one of the top tourist districts in the country where girls suffer multiple barriers to the enjoyment of their basic human rights of education due to a lack of resources. Parents often choose to invest more in the education of boys than girls.
And the trend of poor parents marrying off their daughters than sending them to school is what Senior Chief Bwananyambi wants to stop.