Lucy back in her class after being supported by Mother Group and the Head Teacher
“Living with my poor grandmother, finding every basic need was a struggle for me and continuing my education was simply impossible so I sadly dropped out… It was even more hurtful to know that I have parents but not knowing their whereabouts… I saw no bright future for me,” Lucy Limbika narrated her story as she recalled events that transpired for her to drop out of school at Chitawotawo Primary School. Poverty remains one of the major constraints to accessing quality education for many children in Malawi especially in the rural areas. Many parents who barely afford to provide for their children with school necessities including tuition fees end up having their children dropping out of school even at primary level where school is free in Malawi. For girls, this becomes a much bigger challenge as some parents resort to handing them over to early marriages, which puts them at risk of abuse, complicated delivery after pregnancy, and ultimately cementing the poverty cycle.
In an effort to keep girls like Lucy in school, 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 189 school commuities in Mulanje, Phalombe and Lilongwe districts. The project aims at reducing child early forced marriages and early pregnancies; and contribute to girls’ education attainments. In the project, CRECCOM empowers and mobilizes communities and schools to actively participate in supporting vulnerable girls.
One of the activities which the project conducted was the training of mother groups and other community structures. Among other things, CRECCOM equipped the mother groups with knowledge and skills on how they can motivate and support girls who dropped out of school so that they can be readmitted and continue pursuing their career dreams. This initiative has proved to be a success as it has been reflected in the life of a 16-year-old Lucy Limbika of GVH Msoya, T/A Nazombe in Phalombe district. Lucy is a second born child in a family of 4 children. Her family is poverty stricken and being raised by an 80-year old granny.
When she was 14 years old and in Standard 7, Lucy’s both parents left home for Mozambique, which is a few kilometers away from their village. They went to Mozambique to search for better piece works forced by poverty back home. They left Lucy and her three siblings with no one to look after them, which forced the four children to start staying with their grandmother who is even much poorer. “My grandmother could not afford buying me clothes, school uniform, learning materials like note books, pens, and even food was hardly found,” Lucy explained. She eventually dropped out of school to help her granny raise her younger siblings. This happened in 2019 and Lucy remained a dropout for almost 2 years until GGE-trained mother group, and the head teacher intervened in 2021.
“Nzotheka project trained us to become mothers of every child in our community and make sure that all children especially girls do not drop out of school. After the training, we inquired from the school about girls that no longer go to school so that we could visit them and figure out how to support them,” explained Rhoda Lakatika, member of the mother group. “We learnt from the school that Lucy is one of the girls that dropped out for unknown reasons so we visited her at her grandmother’s house and indeed, poverty at home was unbearable so we reported back to the head teacher about this,” narrated Catherine Mbedza, the secretary of the mother group.
The head teacher kindly bought learning materials for Lucy as she agreed to go back to school after being encouraged by the mother group. The mother group also pledged to continue supporting her with other needs as they were trained by GGE project to be conducting income-generating activities in order to support vulnerable girls like Lucy as a sustainability measure. Two years after dropping out of school, Lucy started attending classes again in standard 7 following the mother group and head teacher’s intervention. She passed her end of year examinations and she is now in standard 8. Her dream is to become a doctor. According to the mother group, they still provide counselling to Lucy to help her stay in school.