Mothers help to recover children’s broken dreams
By Victor Chinyama
Twelve year-old Zione Edwin thought her dreams of becoming a nurse had been shattered forever. Unable to afford food and clothes, her jobless parents had allowed her to drop out of school, preferring that she supplements the family’s meagre income by vending foodstuffs at a local market.
That was in 2005. Today, Zione is sprightly and ambitious, glad to be back in class at Lipunga Junior Primary School, a neat, out-of-the-way school in Lipunga village north of Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital.
A sixth grader, Zione thanks UNICEF for constructing two classroom blocks at the school, which not only helped to ease overcrowding but also persuaded the community to take a greater interest in what was going on at the school.
With UNICEF’s help, the community formed a Mothers’ Group with the aim of mobilizing out-of-school children to return to school and fill up the new classroom spaces.
Mrs. Grace Palimolo, the group’s leader, remembers approaching Zione’s parents to establish why she had dropped out of school.
“Her parents at first were not very cooperative,” she says. “They said they were too poor to meet her school needs.”
Mrs. Palimolo pointed out the benefits of educating Zione, explaining that the new classrooms were equipped with desks, the floors were cemented, and Zione would not need to change her clothes every so often. Her parents would not need to spend so much money as Zione’s school requirements would be met by the school-in-a-box provided by UNICEF. The box takes care of textbooks, notebooks, and school bags.
It took a lot of persuasion before they finally agreed.
“I am happy to be back at school,” says Zione. “My parents now work hard to provide the food.”