Hon. Folks, Malawi is moving so fast in the year 2020 and big ‘things’ continue to unfold in the country at a rate that actually exceeds the speed of anything one can imagine at this moment.
In the last eight months, Malawi has made headlines on the international scene, including political battles in the courts that triggered a political transition that subsequently booted the former ruling DPP out of power.
Today, let’s disgress from the ongoing arrests and crackdown on suspects of corruption and fraud during the DPP administration and reflect on something else that bears the resemblance of a ticking time bomb currently unfolding among our youth.
Malawi was back again on the global scene this week not because of the politics and high-profile arrests. We hit the headlines because of Covid-19 pandemic—that destructive global pestilence that erupted in China in 2019 and has now captured our country like a hunter’s snare.
Of big concern, however, are reports of alarming cases of teenage pregnancies and child marriages that are fast manifesting right in front of our eyes due to the inactiveness of our youth as a result of the pandemic.
It is saddening to note that several unfortunate events are still cashing in on this disease besides myriad problems that have squeezed the country’s health system and the economy to the deathbed.
As a possible alternative to reducing the then threat of the pandemic, the Government of Malawi on March 20 decided that schools must be closed even before the country started registering positive cases.
This effectively meant students from Universities and those from secondary and primary schools were required to go home to protect them from the invisible plague. This was a hard punch mostly for hard working students to bear for they had prepared thoroughly for the examinations that were to be written in a few weeks’ time.
For the lazy lot, however, the closure of schools countrywide had brought in a sigh of relief. Go through some surveys detailing the country’s literacy or illiteracy rates and you will appreciate that some students in different education cycles think school is essentially equivalent to life in prison.
But the news that many girls, in Mangochi, Nsanje, Chikhwawa, Phalombe, Mzimba and many other districts are expectant is frightening. It is frightening because our boys and girls are still dawdling home, while, the virus seems to have stubbornly spiked.
Let us call a spade a spade, girls and boys, young men and women have been having unprotected sex and are continuing to do so even in the face of Covid-19 which has helped in exposing this moral filth of many of Malawian youths.
For instance, Civil Society Coalition on Education executive director Benedicto Kondowe this week also told international media that his organisation has reported 5 000 cases of teenage pregnancies in Phalombe district, while over 500 girls have entered into early marriages since the onset of the pandemic.
What a shocking revelation to earn that even girls as young as 10 years are among those who are expectant. Further to this, not only boys and young men are responsible for this menace, even adult men are involved.
A friend of mine who used to teach at a private secondary school in Mangochi once told me that so many girls were either single mothers while others were married at his school.
What must we do as a nation? For how long must we keep singing the song of self-discipline, self-restraint and self-denial for our youth to embrace behaviour change?
For how long should we blame cultural beliefs and poverty as a catalyst that pushes girls and boys into indulging themselves into a rage of unprotected sex encounters? The girls that have been found probably are but a tip of the iceberg.
Of course to some extent there is parental negligence. Some parents do not care about their children and have no time following up on what they are up to especially during this extended holiday.
Worse still, districts some such as Mangochi that rank poorly on statistical data from reputable bodies like the Africa Development Bank Group in terms of literacy rates. For instance, in 2015, Dedza and Mangochi were ranked the worst with 40 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
This simply points to what lies ahead for Malawi’s future generations. Trouble, trouble and more trouble!