Muloza CCAP Primary School is one of the schools under Nkhulambe zone in Phalombe district and it is located in Namaja village, Group Village Headman Phweremwe, Traditional Authority Nkhulambe. For many years of its existence, the school has been a learning environment that is enjoyable for the boys but yet endurable for the adolescent girls. This is because the school had no structures where adolescent girls who are on their menstrual periods could use as a sanitary change room. As a result, many girls had to be absconding classes during such periods hence performing poorly in examinations. However, according to the Head Teacher of the school Mr. Assamu Chisale, the school received some material support in 2018 from one of the organizations that was working in the area to construct a change room for the girls.
Muloza Head Teacher Assam Chisale pointing where the girls had to be burning their used sanitary pads at the initial change room.
Nevertheless, the change room that was constructed was not user-friendly because its design required girls to be burning the used sanitary pads on an open space to the public hence the girls never used that change room but rather preferred going home to get changed or abscond classes during menstrual periods. “At first, it was always hard for us girls to use the old change room because when people see us burning the pads, they laughed at us,” said Olivia Ingolosi, a 15-year old girl in Standard 8 at the school. In search for privacy at home, many adolescent girls like Olivia missed classes and this contributed to their poorer performance as compared to boys. Such was the case until GGE intervened two years later in 2021.
“I was transferred to this school in 2019 and not so long after my arrival, CRECCOM came with GGE project and I was one of the Head Teachers that got trained on many topics including the need for creating a safe school environment for both boys and girls,” Chisale narrated. “Following the GGE inclusive education training, I realized how unsafe the school environment was for the girls here because the change room that I found was not being used by the girls as it lacked privacy. I then decided to turn one of the well fenced girls’ toilets into a sanitary change room,” Chisale continued. The Head Teacher together with the PTA and SMC mobilized the community members who contributed MK23,400.00. The money was used to purchase a few kilos of cement and hire a builder to turn one of the toilets into a bathroom-like structure in which a girl can go in as if she is going to the normal toilet. Inside the fence of the toilets, the menstruating girls go in the redesigned room then change the pad, get washed when need be, and also wash the reusable pads thoroughly without anyone watching.
The school also used School Improvement Grant (SIG) to buy some sanitary pads so that any girl can access them from the matron whenever she starts menstruation during class time. In addition, CRECCOM and Plan International Malawi also trained the Mother Groups on menstrual hygiene management and sewing reusable sanitary pads hence, the Muloza Mother Group provides pads to girls who need them in addition to what the school purchased. These initiatives have made the adolescent girls to stay in school always because the learning environment is now conducive and safe for them. This is in line with the “Keeping Girls in School” component of the NORAD-funded Girls Get Equal (GGE)-Nzotheka project.
“So far, 30 girls have accessed sanitary pads from us which we sew following a two-days GGE training by CRECCOM, “said Alice Khondiwa, chairperson of the Mother Group. Olivia also testified that the situation now is better for her and other girls at the school. “Now we do wash the pads right there at the change room without having to go home during classes… As such we are able to spend quality time in class even when in menstruation periods,” said Olivia.
CRECCOM in partnership with PLAN International is implementing a NORAD-funded Girls Get Equal-Nzotheka project in 189 school communities in Mulanje, Phalombe and Lilongwe districts. The project aims at reducing child early forced marriages and early pregnancies; and contribute to girls’ education attainments.