Empowering girls through different initiatives is one way to keep them in school in light of the various challenges they face.
Girls from the African continent face numerous challenges that derail their efforts in advancing with education at tender ages. Some end up idle, getting married at such young ages and working in estates or people’s homes.
Stakeholders, both locally and internationally, have stepped up efforts to keep girls in school by engaging in different programmes.
Dalitso Ndaferankhande, founder of Mizuyathu Foundation is one of those passionate stakeholders who, through her foundation, is advocating for girl empowerment by tutoring and mentoring primary school girls in government institutions to prevent them from abandoning school at tender ages.
“Mizuyathu is taken from the word ‘Mizu’, which means roots [so, name means ‘Our roots’. The inspiration behind it is that the strength of their foundation mainly pertains to education and how far one goes with it. So, basically Mizuyathu is about strengthening the foundation of girls’ education,” she says.
Born on July 2 1989, Dalitso went through the corridors of Phoenix International Primary School before proceeding to Kamuzu Academy where she completed her A-levels.
Before proceeding to the University of Cape Town, South Africa, where she obtained her degree in Environmental Science and Industrial Sociology. She studied for an A-1 and A-2 diploma in French at the French Cultural Centre (FCC) in Blantyre, now Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC).
During the year that she was studying at FCC, she was volunteered at Open Arms Foundation, where she acquired experience in social work.
Born and raised in Blantyre by her late father Gaudensio Maluza and Ulanda Maluza, Dalitso comes from Kafulama Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kachindamoto in Dedza and is the oldest in a family of three girls; the others are Gaudy and Natasha. She is married to her high school sweetheart, John Ndaferankhande, whom she tied the knot with in June 2015.
Currently working as project coordinator for the African Mental Health Research Initiative at the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine in Blantyre, Dalitso says she established Mizuyathu Foundation as one way of helping girls with Mathematics and English.
Her passion is derived from a research which she says shows that 25 percent of girls do not finish their primary school education because they do not progress in some of their subjects, leading to early dropping out of school.
“I loved Maths as a child, but wasn’t good at it. I overcame this and passed it even at A-levels because of the teachers who helped me. So, it has made me compassionate to mentor the girls as I was once one such type of girl.
“The fact is that Mizuyathu is a community-based volunteer run initiative currently working in Ndirande. Our vision is a response to high repetition rate of girls and consequent low primary school completion. We work with primary schools to reach out to girls who are at risk of repeating school from Standard Five,” she explains.
Dalitso started working on the concept of forming Mizuyathu Foundation in 2014, but was officially launched in 2016 with the vision to empower and inspire each girl through education and mentorship to positively impact the generations.
“As an initiative, we have a committee of ten dedicated women who look into issues of media, fundraising, volunteer recruitment and community outreach. On the ground, we have a team of six female volunteers who work with groups of four to five girls to tutor them English and Maths on Saturdays from nine to 11am. So far, we have started with 20 Standard Five girls from Namalimwe Primary School in Ndirande,” explains Ndaferankhande.
She says the volunteers are a mixture of women who are working, students and graduate teachers awaiting postings.
The young woman says the volunteers are comprised of girls who act as role models for the girls they teach.
“We want the girls to see us and believe that there is value in education and that they, too, can finish school, be employed or start successful businesses,” she says.
She says she was inspired by her parents who strived to give her the best of what life had to offer despite their own tough upbringing.
“My parents came from a very humble background. I was raised in a close-knit family by hardworking parents who gave us a good life. My parents worked so hard to give us a good education, to give us a different life story, I can say. My late father was such a believer in equipping people with education. From a young age, my parents instilled in me a love of God and a spirit of hard work. It is their effort that has brought me this far.
“That is where my passion also grew from because I have come to believe that when you give someone a good education, it equips them to stand on their own in the future. My education has gotten me to where I am so, I am thankful for that” Ndaferankhande says.
She says she is so passionate about the initiative and believes it has great potential to impact the lives of the girls.
She says she wants to see the system of the foundation working in many government primary schools in the country, with more volunteers.
She believes that her foundation can work in close collaboration with the government and the schools involved to step up efforts in keeping girls in school.
She says there has been tremendous change in the girls that they have been tutoring and mentoring as they have succeeded in the subjects that they have been failing in the past.
She also says although the project has been successfully implemented, there have been some challenges, which she hopes solutions pertaining to them will be available.
“The first is financing the project. Our main expense is buying refreshments for the girls. Each Saturday, they receive a snack. As we do not have consistent funds, we usually rely on well-wishers to help with funds or donations of the products.”
“Secondly, recruiting volunteers is also a big problem. At the moment, we have amazing volunteers, but we need more as we want to increase the number of girls we help and finding volunteers is somehow challenging,” she adds.
Apart from working and developing concepts for the foundation, the enthusiastic 28-year-old woman enjoys writing short stories and she came third in the First Merchant Bank (FMB)/Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) national short story competition in 2009.
Mizuyathu Foundation has also worked with girls from Catholic Institute (CI) Primary School in Blantyre. n