The adult literacy class poses for a photo with the bloggers and UNICEF Team.
Mangochi, the lake side district in Malawi, synonymous for its beautiful lake and rich history. By the mention of this name, one thing comes to mind and it is usually not girls education or children's rights, but tourism. This is where I found myself in the just ended week. And it was not for the merriment of the beautiful sunrise and sunsets or an adventurous swim, kayaking and boat rides on the lake of stars, it was for a mission to learn more of what I always thought I already knew. Guess what? I was wrong.
You probably know by now that I am very passionate about youth development and I am vocal about it and every chance I get, I make sure that I make my position known. This time, I learned how to be conscious about the rights of the minority while making my views and opinions known in the best way I know how, Social media and blogging.
Thanks to UNICEF Malawi who took me out of Lilongwe City to Mangochi for a blogging for youth workshop week so that I can share with the world through this space some of the critical issues that young people of this beautiful country are facing and how they are overcoming these challenges with a first hand experience.
The workshop brought together some of Malawi's accomplished journalists and bloggers, social media activists, aspiring bloggers and young student fro several secondary schools in Mangochi who are forming a team that will run a youth media program by UNICEF.
It was an enlightening few days spent with Sandra Thier who gave the team insights into social media and blogging.
On a Thursday morning, we set out to Nkumba Zone in the area of Traditional Authority Nsomba to meet and see what UNICEF in partnership with Adult Girls Literacy (AGLIT) are doing to help help girls fight illiteracy.
It was a journey of more than 2 hrs from our base at Sun n Sand towards Namwera to the east of Mangochi Boma.
Catherine Lemson. "The classes are opening a door that was once shut for me".
While in Mkumba, I attended an adult literacy class full of girls who had dropped out of school. About 27 girls attended this particular session. It was touching to see girls who could not afford a basic education at a young age getting a second chance to be able to learn how to read and write. The girls attend an afternoon class where they learn basic reading and writing and are also taught life skills.
We heard stories of how the girls could not stay in school and how they are taking a new route to the future.
I had an opportunity to chat with one of the girls a 14 years old Catherine Lemson who dropped out of school in 2014 when her mother moved from her village to Kasungu and left her with no support to aid her education while she was still in standard 1 at Nampinguja Primary School. Catherine was left in the care of her aunt who who sells (zitumbuwa) locally made doughnuts to make ends meet and was unable to sponsor her education.
“When I dropped out of school, I went to stay with my grandmother in Masanje Village. In January this year while I was there, my aunt sent a message that there was an afternoon class for adolescents and I became interested. I came back to Nsomba Village in February and enrolled for this class. I wanted to learn how to read and write”.
Catherine is now able to read basic words and write and she now plans to enroll back into the formal primary school. She believes that girls should be helped to stay in school and pursue their dreams. She recons this is not going to be easy but she hopes more organizations can step in and support them.
“My aunt is single and it is not easy to fetch for herself and for me so that I can go to school every morning. So for me the afternoon class is better than the morning classes in a formal school for now”.
Catherine still holds ambitions of becoming a nurse in the future and she hopes this path can take her to her dream in the future which looked all but impossible few years ago. All thanks to UNICEF for supporting this program being run by AGLIT, girls like Catherine can find a new route to the future through adult literacy classes.
Dennis Imaan is a Global Citizen born and currently staying in Malawi. He loves to share his experiences and lessons with others. Travel, Tourism, Innovations, Media and Youth development are close to his heart.