15 October: Mother’s Day in Malawi (which is a public holiday). It fits very well that UNICEF Malawi organised a meeting with a Mothers’ Group and a girl who had dropped out of primary school. The day starts again very early. At 7am we depart from Blantyre and a three and a half hour journey is ahead of us.
Travelling by car is adventurous in Malawi. Everywhere people are walking along on each side of the road: men push heavily loaded bicycles; cattle fight at the roadside and goats cross from right to left. We pass typical African villages with mud huts or houses made of red brick stones.
How do the people live in such villages? How is their daily life? One mother told us that she gets up at four in the morning, making a fire to prepare hot water for the kids. They get up at six. While kids are at school, mothers work in the fields, fetch water and cook the meals. The babies are always carried wrapped around with them. It is incredible what these woman can do. When the children come back from their afternoon school lessons, they have to do their school homework. This is only possible if the family has candles since it is getting dark already at 5:30pm. Electricity is not available and it is the same with running water. We heard about that before, but now we can really experience these problems. Life as a woman and mother is tough but still most of them are full of positive energy.
When we arrive at Chapita Primary School in Salima, we are welcomed again by passionate singing and dancing women. Being greeted in such a warm-hearted and friendly way touches us really. Although it is a public holiday, many learners, teachers, the headmaster, chiefs of surrounding villages and members of the mothers’ group are here. We all sit together in the shadows of a tree in the centre of the school ground Behind us goats are passing, in the distance we see women getting water from the well.
After the regional chiefs thank us for our visit and support, a girl called Siyileni stands up and steps in front of the group. Visibly nervous, she tells us about her life: she got pregnant when she was 14. Unmarried and pregnant at this age is a big disgrace for an African family. The family took her out of school and cast her out to the child’s father. She stumbles in her telling – between the pupils sits her mother. She now comes to help her daughter, on her arm the four-month-old granddaughter. The members of the mother group convinced Siyileni’s parents about the impact of school education. Nzotheka, which means “it’s possible”, is printed on their shirts. The Mother’s Group was so successful that Siyileni’s parents realised that everyone can make a mistake. It is not their daughter’s fault and she urgently needs support. They brought Siyileni and her child back into their own house. The mother cares now for her grandchild during school times, so Siyileni has been able to attend school since September. Fascinating, this mother power!
Siyileni wants to become nurse. Her eyes are shining brightly as she tells us that. About 40% of the kids can reach their dream job, explains Joseph Scott from UNICEF Malawi. There is a lot to do so that all kids can make their dreams come true. “Don’t forget us,” says the chief. How could we?