In Malawi’s commercial city Blantyre, Chrissie Chipewa is dedicating her life to helping other Malawian girls stay in school. She teaches at the Amalika Teacher Training College.
Chipewa had to fight gender stereotypes and poverty to get her own education. She was raised in a poor family and dropped out of school at 12 years old. At the time, many of her friends, from low-income families were forced into early marriages and thus became teenage mothers.
“The problem is that most of the parents, they don’t see the importance of school to the young girls. They think that whenever the girl has reached maturity, then she can be married so that she can take care of herself. They don’t care how this can affect her future”, she said.
I feel motivated to do more and also to reach more girls who have dropped out of school and also to reach more girls who might have that thinking of dropping out, not to drop out.
Malawi has one of the highest marriages for girls in the world. The United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) says 9 percent of Malawi’s girls are married by 15 years. According to Malawi’s National Statistics Office, nearly 30 percent of girls aged between 15- 19 are either pregnant or have become mothers. And so, Chipewa is hoping to combat this.
“I feel motivated to do more and also to reach more girls who have dropped out of school and also to reach more girls who might have that thinking of dropping out, not to drop out. So, I feel very happy to see more girls coming back to school”, Chipewa said.
Chipewa has already inspired many women in Malawi’s new generation of educators to contribute their part in ensuring that more girls stay in school.
“We have established groups for girl learners where we encourage them to remain in school. These are girls’ clubs. These clubs are helping reduce school drop-outs. Even their parents and guardians are so thankful. Unlike in the past, more girls are now enrolling and remaining in school,” said Esther Goodson.
Teenage mothers account for up to 30 percent of maternal deaths in Malawi. The country’s education ministry is also encouraging girls with babies not to give up on school in order to boost the number of girls in the classroom.