Ennipher Charlie from Malawi wrote this blog after attending the RIATT-ESA sponsored Children and Youth conference at the 2017 Psychosocial Forum.
I recommend that government and NGOs should come together to address the challenges that keep girls out of school in Malawi. In addition to poverty and culture, a big problem is poorly-equipped schools. Government should construct schools in every community to reduce problems of travelling long distances for girls. More hostels should be constructed to avoid issues of overcrowding in boarding schools.
Some girls walk as far as 20 kilometers only to get to a class where there are as many as 100 students. And not enough chairs and books; limited water supply; and no electricity. This makes it hard to sit and focus on the lessons. Anyway, most of the students are already tired when they reach school, which leads to low performance.
Lack of soap and sanitary pads contributes to girls missing school when they are menstruating. Domestic chores, work for income and initiation ceremonies also interfere with studying for exams.
My own school does not have enough hostels. A hostel meant for 56 students now accommodates 120 students. This is very dangerous. Some students opt for informal boarding houses which are not safe. Here, they face a lot of challenges like lack of psychosocial support and food. Many end up in prostitution to make money to meet these needs. As a result, they end up contracting sexual transmitted diseases and or becoming pregnant. And girls who are pregnant normally leave school.
More girls would stay in school if these challenges are addressed.