Girl’s education is crucial for development. A report by the charity Plan showed that, on average, each extra year of secondary school increases a young woman’s future income by up to 20%. Girls who complete school are less likely to be forced into sex, less likely to marry before the age of 18, and more likely to use contraception.
In Malawi, over 85% of girls will not finish secondary school and less than 5% will achieve a pass at their senior exams, the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE’s – A Level equivalent). Girls hoping to attend school and pass exams are at a significant disadvantage compared to boys. They are vulnerable to unwanted sexual advances, with a relatively high likelihood of rape, pregnancy and HIV. More than 50% of girls become pregnant before the age of 18, which leads to their being barred from school. At home, girls spend significantly more time on household chores like fetching wood, cooking and cleaning, than boys, leaving little time for study. In food insecure circumstances, girls will be unlikely to eat enough to aid concentration and have energy to get through the day. Cultural practices can take girls away from school – the death of a father may mean she must leave to her uncle’s or mother’s home village.
The Government of Malawi is supporting a major drive to promote female education. Due to their own scarce resources, they are reliant on external organisations and charities to support this drive. Their recommendations include providing accommodation for girls at school as a means to increasing female participation in education. Girls kept under the supervision of the school are not distracted by home chores, or long walks to a school campus, which early in the morning or late at night, can put them in significant danger. They have time to study and live independent lives, allowing them to mature without the vulnerabilities, which would otherwise limit their education.
In July 2015 we started to build a girl’s dormitory on the site of the school and the building was completed in March 2016. It will open its doors to its first students in September 2016. The dorm will house 56 female students, charging minimal fees for upkeep. The girls will be drawn from both current and new students who live in remote areas that make it difficult for them to travel to school without walking long distances. This will dramatically increase their chances of completing secondary education, helping them reap the benefits this brings.
Below are some pictures of the beginning of the building project.