Esther Phiri is a 17-year-old Polytechnic student who hopes to run her own business and create employment after completing her Bachelor of Commerce in entrepreneurship.
She was the only student from Chimwankhunda Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) to be selected for higher education at the University of Malawi (Unima) in her time.
As some students struggle with fees to the extent of withdrawing from secondary schools and colleges, Phiri was lucky to be spotted by First Lady Gertrude Mutharika to receive support from Beautify Malawi (Beam) Trust.
Beam, an organisation whose patron is the First Lady, supports her with fees and school materials.
“There were four of us from Chimwankhunda CDSS assisted by Beam Trust. When the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) results came out, I was the only one selected to [Unima].
“Beam was impressed with me and offered to continue assisting me in my university studies. So, it paid my first year tuition fees and helped me with stationery and food allowances,” explained Phiri who is now in second year.
She reckons that her parents would have struggled to support her through college.
“The first semester of my second year was the campaign period and I returned to school without my benefactor. We struggled through it,” she adds.
Another beneficiary, Abigail Mutipe, says Beam’s support gives her hope for a better future.
“I am hopeful of completing my studies very well; it has also alleviated the stress that comes due to failure to pay fees. Again, their provision of computers and other learning materials gives me strength not to give up on my studies and to work hard,” she explains.
The two of them are among many others benefiting from Beam Trust’s educational support that received a K30 million financial support from the Chinese Government recently.
Education is one of the key routes out of poverty for both individuals and nations; but despite the fact, many Malawian children, especially girls, continue to drop out of school.
A report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine indicate that in Malawi, although initial enrolment in school is high, half the children drop out by the end of year six of primary school and only a third complete the eight years.
Titled ‘Understanding the causes of school drop-out in Malawi’, the report further says drop-out in adolescence is higher in girls than in boys and often follows early pregnancies and marriages.
Realising the significance of educating girls, the Chinese Government has given Beam Trust K30 million to support them.
Speaking at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe recently, Mutharika said through the trust and the Chinese support, 1 100 girls have received education in the past four years, including those that dropped out of school due to early pregnancies and early marriages.
“We have eight girls continuing with their tertiary education at different institutions. Three are at the Polytechnic pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurship; Bachelor of Science in Geological Engineering and Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health,” she said.
She added that there are two others at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar); two at Kasungu and Chiradzulu teachers training colleges and one at Milonga Technical College.
On his part, the Chinese Ambassador Liu Hong Yang was optimistic that the funds would assist girls who are facing difficulties.