By Laura Hill, Communications Manager, CARE Australia
In a hard-to-reach village in rural Malawi, 15-year-old Malita* wants to be an engineer.
Malita is studying grade eight, the last year of primary school. English and maths are her favourite subjects and like her friends, Malita divides her time between going to school and helping around the house or working on the farm.
These days Malita attends school regularly, but a few years ago, she spent most of her days working on other people’s farms earning money to help her mother buy maize flour and soap for her family of six.
Malita would still be toiling her days away on the land instead of learning geography if it weren’t for a boisterous group of women from her village that persuaded Malita’s mother to re-enrol her in school.
Thirty-year-old farmer and mother of three Lobina Dawe is a member of the 10-woman strong unit known locally as the ‘Mothers’ Group’.
She and the other women in her group volunteer their time to visit the parents of children that have dropped out of school and encourage them to prioritise their children’s education. Once a month, they do farm work to help parents afford school items like uniforms and books.
‘There are many reasons that students don’t attend school, but the most common are because they are working on their parents’ or other people’s farms, looking after their younger siblings, working as servants or herding cattle,’ says Lobina.
Within the first few months of the CARE-led Mothers’ Group, the women had already encouraged more than 20 families to send their children back to school.
‘The parents appreciate our visit and are pleased when they re-enrol their children in school. They are grateful for the support and encourage us to help more families because they can see the benefits education brings to their family.
‘This is precious work that will benefit not only the families we work with, but the entire village,’ adds Lobina.
Malita says that thanks to the Mothers’ Group her mum now believes that educating all five children will help their family live a brighter future.
‘She even bought me my first school uniform,’ beams Malita.
Despite the inroads made to date, the Mothers’ Group will have to keep a close watch on Malita as she transitions from primary to secondary school – a critical point in the educational journey that sees many children; especially girls drop out of school because of financial pressures and early marriage.
Although many challenges remain for Malita and her family she is defiantly positive about her future and adds: ‘If I can’t be an engineer then I have dreams of becoming a pilot,’ as a plane flies across the sky above her village.
Help a girl like Malita change her future. Donate to CARE’s Education Appeal today.
*CARE is committed to being a child safe organisation. Names of children have been changed.