Mothers promote Girls’ Education in Malawi
By Victor Chinyama
Manesi Ernest saw her world come to a crashing end when her mother died in 1997. Aged only 14, her father had died a few years earlier.
“I was in Standard 8 at Mfera Primary School when my mother died. I had no one to support me and people told me the only way out of my misery was to get married,” she says.
A man came along, promising her marriage. A pregnancy resulted but the man ran away and left Manesi, at only 15, with the difficult task of raising a baby by herself.
It was no wonder then that the next man who promised marriage became the father of her second child. He also ran away, leaving Manesi with two children to care for. She was 18 years old.
Now aged 25, Manesi has thrown her lot into counselling young girls to avoid early sexual relations. She belongs to a “Mothers Group” which provides counselling and support to girls at Mfera Primary School. The group holds counselling sessions with upper class girls twice a month. So far, it has succeeded in bringing back 18 girls who left school to engage in maize vending.
“We have realized that girls drop out of school for many reasons,” she says. “Mostly, it is because they come from poor, hungry families where they are forced into vending commodities in order to supplement household income.”
Manesi also cites the lack of toilet facilities at the school to cater for girls and entertainment houses around the school which allow under-age girls to indulge in alcohol, dance, and video shows.
The Mothers Group has recruited the village chief to their cause. Being a mother herself and an authority figure, the chief has been able to persuade owners of entertainment houses not to allow underage children.
For Manesi, her motivation is not too far from home. “I have many regrets about the way my turned out,” she says. “However I cannot change history. All I can do is to try and help young girls from following in my footsteps.”