Giving vulnerable students a future

Hearing birds tweet every morning and watching trees sway as the Dedza winds sweep over Kasonkanje Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chiswe is the everyday atmosphere that 15-year-old Doreen Limbani wakes up to.

The teenager is the second-born daughter in a family of three.

Following the death of her mother when she was 4, Doreen’s father remarried leaving her and her siblings in the custody of their grandmother, Esinta Wilson.

Doreen (L) and her friend Tevele foresee a bright future through education

Life was never the same.

Their grandmother had no source of income and was only dependent on seasonal farming. Doreen’s father had assumed other responsibilities in his new home and hardly came to visit.

Doreen, a very meek girl with a warm personality, has always dreamt of becoming a nurse – she believes that she has a role to play in bringing healing to people in her community and beyond. She trusts her abilities and hopes to become a nurse who inspires other girls from her village.

Difficult upbringing

While in Standard Six at Chipsye Primary School last year, life was not rosy for Doreen as she lacked basic needs to enable her attend school and learn comfortably.

Her grandmother felt that her meagre resources were being overstretched and decided in June that Doreen had to dropout of school as she could no longer afford to support her.

“I recall waking up to some gruesome news from my grandmother that she had arranged a husband for me, and I had to quit school as Mr Gwetsani had come to end our misery,” narrates Doreen.

She was left with no choice but to accept her grandmother’s directive. This was to be the end of the road to her dreams.

She recalls seeing her nursing career crumble right in front of her eyes. Doreen cried but soon realised that all her tears were meaningless if she could not bring any hope or solution.

So, with great fear for the future, Doreen confided in her friend Tavele of what she was about to experience. Her friend advised her to meet a member of Chimbiya Mother Group who could bring an end to her unfortunate experience.

“I told Tavele that I was not ready to become a mother, let alone a wife to an older man and that I wished I could pursue my dream,” she says.

Yet, the young girl could not gather courage to meet the mothers’ group. It was her teacher who was to change things.

After noticing Doreen’s absenteeism from class and hearing rumours that she would soon become a wife to one of the businessmen at Chimbiya Trading Centre, the teacher informed the mother group of the unfortunate development.

The group promptly confronted Doreen’s grandmother on her plans and she (the grandmother) bluntly told the group that there was nothing they could do as her decision was final—Doreen was getting married.

The mother group was also not relenting. It reported the case to police and Doreen’s grandmother was called in for questioning as marrying off a child below the age of 18 is against the law and attracts a custodial sentence.

“Gogo Esinta remained adamant when questioned by the police of her decision. This resulted in her detention at the station for some days,” says Chimbiya Mother Group chairperson Gladys Sofaya, adding that the grandmother was released a few days later after she had committed not to interfere with Doreen’s education.

Back to future

When Doreen heard of this, she was filled with joy and realised that she was given another opportunity to pursue her education.

In September last year, she returned to school and the mother group has been supporting her with sanitary needs including provision of soap and school stationery.

“I am happy-very happy,” says Doreen who is in her Standard Seven now. “I come to school with clean clothes and have books and pens thanks to the mother group and school authorities for coming to my rescue.

UN support

Doreen is one of the few pupils at Chipsye Primary School that are being supported by Chimbiya Mother Group with various needs including school uniform, stationery, soap and other sanitary supplies.

Thanks to the UN Joint Programme on Girls Education (UNJPGE), funded by the Norwegian Government through UN agencies, the mother group was provided with a start-up capital for a revolving fund of K300 000 aimed at growing and supporting vulnerable pupils at the school.

This development has seen several girls such as Doreen stay in school to fulfil their potential. —Unicefmalawi.Blog

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