Many of the protesters are mothers and know all too well the consequences of not being able to go to school. With a poor education, finding decent employment becomes a struggle. Parents and the government of Malawi formed a coalition called the Mother Groups. Although the primary focus of the campaign is girls, they are determined to not leave boys behind.
Advocating for change
Mother Groups from regions where SOS programmes operate are asking girls to return to school and, if there is an obstacle, are helping them to find a solution.
“We have reached out to dozens of girls who have now gone back to school. Some were forced or lured into early marriages and we managed to advise them to go back to school and they listened,” says Bernadetta Muyowe, a member of one of the Mother Groups in Tsabango.
She adds that they have reached out to young mother and prepared them to return to school in the new school term. The Mothers Group worked with the young mothers’ parents, who agreed to babysit their grandchildren.
Situation in Malawi
The Malawi government abolished school fees in 1994. However, over 10 percent of school-aged children do not attend primary school. Children leave school for a variety of reasons, such as poverty, having to travel long distances to school and teenage pregnancies. This February, Malawi passed a historic law making child marriage unlawful and raised the minimum age to 18.
SOS Children has worked in Malawi since 1994 and today, operates three Villages in the country. In addition, we run two medical centres, five social centres and four schools. In 2002, SOS Children responded to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic with a community outreach programme, which supports 2,000 children and their families who have been affected by the deadly virus.
SOS helping school children
A core part of the SOS family strengthening programme is championing education. Our team provides school resources, uniforms and school fees to needy families. We provide training to the Mother Groups and their communities on how to better cope financially. The groups are provided with bicycles and trained on how to produce recyclable sanitary pads. The introduction of re-usable sanitary pads for girls is a sustainable way of empowering females. Menstruation contributes to thousands of girls missing or abandoning school.
“By providing the basic requirements for schooling, the burden is removed from the already struggling caregivers. In this way, the caregivers can focus on improving their income-generating capabilities, which does not include putting their children to work. Children who have dropped out of school are then able to return to the classroom,” said Annette Mkandawire, SOS gender officer in Malawi.
Head teachers who are part of the Mother Groups are giving special consideration to vulnerable children who have returned to school but cannot pay certain contributions like examination fees. Angela, a beneficiary of the initiatives, explains that her dream of a bright future has been renewed after her return to school. The Mother Group and SOS Children’s Villages have managed to get 70 girls, like Angela, back in school.
Overall, 134,700 children, young people and adults are enrolled in our education programmes. Learn more about our work.