Rhoda in her class just before knock-off time.
“I was feeling so shamed of myself, knowing that I am a disgrace to my family. All hopes for a bright future for me were shattered because I never thought I would go back to school ever again.” Rhoda sadly explained what she was emotionally going through when she dropped out of school as she narrated her touching story. She is one of the many girls that have ever fallen into the trap of peer pressure due to poverty at home. Rhonda Maliko is a 17-year-old girl who hails from Mulula village, Group Village Headman Mulula, Traditional Authority Nkhulambe in Phalombe district which is in the southern region of Malawi.
Currently in standard 8 at Phweremwe Primary School, Rhoda is the sixth born child in a family of 7 children. Her parents are unemployed and don’t even have a land to do farming. They rely on piece works and they are in deep poverty hence couldn’t afford giving her money daily for buying snacks at break while at school. As such, Rhoda admired her peers at school who were having money. “All the friends that I had at school where having money and they started distancing themselves from me because I was the only one among them who was having no money at all. When I asked them where they get the money, they told me that their boyfriends give it to them, and this eventually made me get into a sexual relationship with a certain boy so that I could have money too.” Rhoda explained regrettably.
In September 2021, Rhoda got impregnated by her boyfriend and dropped out of school while in standard 8 preparing to sit for Primary School Leaving Certificate examinations. She felt so ashamed of herself and gave up on her dream of becoming a teacher after finishing school. She never hoped to go back to school until when the mother group intervened. “We were trained by Girl Get Equal project on how we can support girls to remain in school and how we can approach those who dropped out of school to get readmitted.” – explained Felister Pensulo, a mother group member. “Learning from the school that Rhoda is one of the girls who have not been attending classes for over two weeks, we went to her home to follow up and we found out that she was pregnant. Just like we were trained, we explained to her and the parents that she could still attend classes and write her exams which were so near.” Pensulo continued to narrate.
Less than a month after dropping out of school, Rhoda started attending classes again following the mother group intervention. She wrote her examinations and passed but never got selected to secondary school. As such, she intends to repeat standard 8 once she delivers her baby. According Letasi Kankhunda, Headteacher for Pweremwe Secondary School, GGE project trained the teachers at the school on Teachers’ Conduct and as such, readmitted girls like Rhonda are well treated by teachers and fellow leaners so that they feel safe and remain in school. “We even translated the teachers’ conduct into vernacular language and pasted copies of it on notice boards here on school campus so that everyone understands how teachers ought to behave so that they shouldn’t be the ones to push back the readmitted learners.” Kankhunda explained. According to him, following the training from GGE, the school also has a suggestion box where learners throw in their written grievances, and this helps the school to make some right decisions for the good of the learners.
Headteacher, Letasi Kankhunda explaining how the suggestion box is used at the school.
As part of sustaining their activities, the Phweremwe mother group members contribute money every month to support other girls from impoverished families with school resources like notebooks and school uniforms. So far, they have managed to buy school uniforms for 10 learners: 5 girls and 5 boys. The mother group has also helped 42 other learners to get readmitted to school. Out of the 42 readmitted learners, 28 are girls including Rhoda. Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM) in partnership with PLAN International is implementing the Keeping Girls in School component of the NORAD-funded Girls Get Equal (Nzotheka) project in selected 179 schools in Mulanje, Phalombe and Lilongwe districts. The project aims at reducing child early forced marriages and early pregnancies; and contribute to girls’ education attainment.