From November 25 to December 10, Malawi joins the world in commemorating the 16 days of Activism under the theme From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All! ALBERT SHARRA explores on the impact of lack of peace in the home.
While other children in Likonde Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mponda in Mangochi are walking to the nearby Namisi Primary School, three children in one family in the village are packing malambe juice satchets in buckets ready for market while others prepare for farm work. Aged seven, 10 and 12, the children are orphans, school dropouts and live with their grandparents.
We found one at around 10am selling malambe juice at Katema Trading Centre on a Wednesday and said he has no option, but to serve the family.
“After our mother died, we transferred to the grandparent’s home,” he begins the story. “There is no peace in the family. If I register losses in the sales, I just know I will either sleep on an empty stomach or beaten up.”
The three say circumstances forced them to drop out of school mainly due to lack of learning materials. They also allege that most times after school, they would not find food.
“We live with our grandmother. The grandfather is a teacher and lives in Monkey Bay, but he does not care about our education. They send us to the garden or market every day. Our brother left the home for Blantyre to seek greener pastures,” explains the boy.
One of them opted for piecework to raise money to remain in school, but he lost the battle. He works for a fish seller at the trading centre. The only daughter in the family was married at the age of 14 and is now expecting a second child.
Officials at Katema Gender-Based Violence (GBV), a community group fighting GBV and Namisi Victim Support Unit (VSU) acknowledge the situation of the three. Yusuf Asidi, Katema GBV vice-secretary, says together with VSU they have tried to intervene, but failed to change the story. Jafali Foster, Namisi VSU vice-secretary, says there have been violence in the family and at one point they engaged locals to counsel the children and the guardians.
In phone interviews, the grandparents trashed the findings, arguing that the children are in school. However, the grandfather, a Mr Matsimbe, a head teacher at another school (name withheld) in Monkey Bay, confronted Namisi head teacher for helping the reporter to verify on whether the children are in school.
“Taking issues to the media cannot solve the problem,” said Matsimbe in a phone call.
He added: “The girl was married at own will. The boys go to the market after school. The other one assists his uncle in selling fish.”
Matsimbe’s wife insisted the children are in school, but were home on the day because they had no learning materials (notebooks). But we established through the school that the children dropped out.
The case of the three children sounds exceptional, but no, there are many children who are out of school due to lack of peace in the homes and parental support.
Unicef reports that Malawi needs to do more in ensuring more children are in school and retained. It says over 10 percent of school-aged children do not attend primary school. And only 26 percent of children complete the entire primary school cycle.
This has to be addressed if the just-adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to cause an impact in Malawi. Goal number four asks nations to ensure that there is inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.
Mangochi has to pull up its socks as the Mangochi Basic Services Programme mid-term review by Icelandic International Development Agency (Icida) 2012-2016 says the district has a primary school retention rate of 84.1 percent for all classes, which is lower than all South-East Education Division districts.
In the same Likonde Village, Angella James, 23, failed to proceed with education despite doing well during Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education examinations. She claims that after her father died, her mother remarried.
“It was a wrong decision. Remarrying took away peace and hope in the home. The step-father stopped my mother from distilling kachasu, the only source of income. They used to fight. My brother left for South Africa and I opted to marry although I was only 15,” explains James.
Peace, love and desire for prosperity in her new home is performing miracles. She went back to school in 2011 and scored 21 points at the 2014 Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations.
“I want to become a nurse,” she explains jovially.
The two cases mirror on the situation on the ground and James’ story is a testimony of how peace in the home fosters access to education and enjoyment of other rights at family level. It also shows how a peaceful home fosters family success.
This may be the reason this year’s 16 days of activism against GBV is themed From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All!
Psychologist Chiwoza Bandawe says there is a direct link between peace in the home and success of every family member. He argues that if one is distressed by a situation, mental ability is frustrated and concentration goes down. If this happens persistently, it can affect one’s success in all endeavours.
Getrude Kabwazi, Age Africa country director, says Malawi has not done in enough in addressing peace at home. She adds that the other reason is that the GBV campaign is done through formal education.
“This year’s theme forms a triangle that anchors inter-related topics—education, GBV and peace. What we need to do is to carry sensitisation campaign through informal education sector such as initiation ceremonies to influence household heads to protect children,” she says.
Kabwazi, however, says this needs muilt-faceted efforts and proposes a strategy that begins from the home. It should empower counsellors and communities to ensure there is peace in every home. She also asks the society to do away with some cultural beliefs that risk children’s future.
In T/A Mponda, Katema GBV and Namisi VSU have begun the journey. They have created a children protection committee that is on Back to School campaign and plans to change market day from Wednesday to Saturday so that no one misses classes for market.n