eeing her name on the secondary school selection list placed on her former primary school’s notice board in 2017, delighted Delicious Davison.
The Lilongwe-based Kalonga Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) student wants to to become a nurse.
Now in Form Three, 18-year-old Davison explained how she could not wait to put on a secondary school uniform which is more comfortable than the dress she used to put on whilst in primary school.
However, her joy was short-lived when she thought of the 20 kilometres she was supposed to cover daily.
“The distance issue took out my courage considering the paths that lead to the school; mostly bushy during the rainy season and I was worried until my mother suggested self-boarding near the school,” said Davison.
With the help of her parents, she secured a place in one of the houses which students use as a hostel.
It was all good at first until most of her friends, especially those in senior classes, started having relationships with men.
“When asked why they were doing that, they claimed to be in need of basic items and that their parents were not giving them enough money to buy food and school materials,” narrated Davison.
Though coming from a poor family, Davison said the only reason she could drop out of school would be due to her incapacity to pay school fees, but not teen pregnancy.
She said most of the girls who were involved with boys and men are now mothers and some are expecting.
“Their future is shattered just like that. Poverty has made them mothers before their time. But I do not really blame their parents for not giving them enough money, peer pressure is the root cause,” said Davison.
One of the teachers at Kalonga CDSS Andrew Jolomosi said the school tries to mentor the girls on the importance of education and how it could help them in developing their communities.
“We try our best, but mostly students do not listen. In a month, we experience a case or two of teen pregnancies, a trend which is bad. As such, school management is trying to lobby parents into the idea of being open to their children on issues of pregnancy and how to resist peer pressure,” he said.
Although self-boarding is not legally supported by the Government of Malawi, it is the expected course of action for most young girls and boys who travel long distances to school.
Some communities have reached the extent of building hostels just to help mitigate the distance challenges.
But in most cases, the idea has brought more harm than good as most girls living in such hostels find themselves in early marriages due to teen pregnancies.
Masula Community-Based Organisation chairperson Shaviel Gerevazio said the community is now holding hands to curb the number of girls dropping out.
“The idea of self-boarding is not bad considering the circumstances we are in, but then it is killing our children’s future. But as a community, it is our duty to save them and we will meet and discuss possible solutions,” he said.
Masula Youth Network coordinator Sinoya Keniyala added that lack of control has also made a lot of girls to drop out of school.
He said girls are falling in the trap of teenage pregnancies and most of the times, the men who impregnate them deny responsibility.
“We deal with girls in our job and it has been a challenge when it comes to advocating on teen pregnancy issues. They seem to understand the messages brought forward to them, but they do not follow the advice.
“As such we would like to change the idea of approaching the youth first by talking to parents and make them understand the importance of giving a girl child a chance to education which could be in terms of providing for her needs so that she doesn’t become prey for men,” he said.
The 2017-2018 education report in Malawi indicates that almost 4.3 percent of girls in the country dropped out of school due to pregnancies.
Education activists have for this reason called on government to upgrade school structures and construct better hostels for girls.
“If we are to have proper structures where female learners are well taken care of, these issues will end. And if we are to just do a small comparison between girls from a normal boarding school and those from self-boarding, the latter will have more victims than the former due to discipline issues,” said George Mindano, an education activist.