Essay, Pages 4 (847 words)
Formulated in 2006, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) stipulates that, for substantial sustainable development to take place, gender imbalances should be addressed citing education as one of the key concerns. If this is addressed especially in education, it will enhance participation of women, men, boys and girls for sustainable and equitable development (Ngwira, 2010). Along this vein, Malawi Government (MG) has put some strategies in place to retain girls in schools. Government, the private sector and non-governmental structures have put in place many interventions to assist the girl child to stay in school.
Malawi policy on teenage pregnancy and school re-entry has been in place since 1993 (Yates, 2008). When a school girl becomes pregnant, they are withdrawn and allowed to re-enroll a year later after giving birth. This gives the girls an opportunity to finish their education, although according to Yates (2008) these girls meet stigma in schools from staff and fellow students. It is very true that if school is free, dropout rates on financial grounds are reduced (Xayavong & Pholphirul, 2018).
Taking this into account, with the help of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and donors, the Malawi Government offers bursaries to a good number of girls whose parents and guardians cannot afford school fees in secondary schools. Some bursaries even carter for uniforms, writing materials, sanitary supplies and petty cash for use in school by the selected female learner beneficiaries.
According to Plan (2016), besides all these social mitigation factors, Malawi legal framework provides for advocacy for laws that protects girls and women from unfavorable customary practices thereby creating an enabling environment for girls to realize their potential through education.
Some of the strategies involved are: prohibition of forced marriages among minors, setting a minimum age of marriage that can enable a party to a marriage to independently exercise this free will, prohibition of forced marriage/child betrothal, marriage registration, eliminating discrimination against women and girls, making rape not a license to marriage, as well as prohibition of dowry or similar payment for parents to gain benefits in cash or kind.
‘The 18+ Programme on Ending Child Marriage in Southern Africa was conceptualized as an initiative to domesticate and operationalize the BIAAG campaign. It is a programming model with a clear theory of change and pathways for attaining the desired change. The programme, hosted in Zambia, covers Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and has three main objectives: to mobilize girls at risk of child marriage so that they have the capabilities to determine their own futures and make their own choices about if, when and whom they marry, to transform, through social movement-building, the gender norms and practices that drive child marriage, and to facilitate an enabling legal and policy environment to protect girls from child marriage’ (Plan, 2016). Besides, there was also the ‘Keeping girls in school programme, Malawi, (KGIS)’, (2012-2018). It was designed to tackle the multiple barriers that Malawian girls face in staying in school. By 2016, KGIS had put in place six significant targets that were hoped to help the girl student in school.
Among these were: school with bursaries, access to improved sanitation facilities at secondary school for 100, 000 girls, 3, 000 mother groups trained to provide counselling and support to girls, 21, 500 in service female teachers trained to act as better role models to girls, and strong evidence base gathered of what works to keep girls in school.
Malawi is also implementing a National Plan of Action (NPA) for Vulnerable Children (2015-2019) which has six strategic objectives aiming at improving access to essential services by vulnerable children for their survival including right to quality education and protection of the girl child. The activities and programs in the NPA are solely guided by the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, other relevant national legislation, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other international human rights instruments.
Not only that, MG has also subscribed to most of the international and regional treaties and conventions on child rights. At the national level, the Constitution of Malawi (1994, chapter IV, Section 23) provides the basis for the protection of all children in Malawi. There are also many other pieces of legislation that aim at protecting children. The Girls Education & Women Empowerment (GEWE) project has established One Stop centres (OSCs) in several district hospitals. For instance, at the community level, there are at least 300 Community Victim Support Units.
With such a long list of legal, social and political interventions put in place to curb the challenge of schoolgirl drop out, the nation is still suffering significant dropout. This is why this study, therefore, sought to establish why some girls stayed on in school while others ‘chose’ to drop out yet they were operating within levelled similar socio-political and legal environment as far as impediments to schooling are concerned. No wonder one could not help asking oneself: Despite all these interventions to reduce potential challenges to girl education, what influences some girls to drop out of secondary schools in Malawi when their friends hung on in there?