Our second day in Malawi started early. At 7:30 we drove together with UNICEF staff to Dedza to meet members of a girls’ forum and a mothers’ group. Already the way was filled with colourful impressions of a very lively Malawi: groups of about hundred kids walked along the street; women with huge pots on their heads filled with water and men breaking stones into small pieces.
After one and a half hours on broad streets and narrow sand paths, we arrived at Champagnat Community Day Secondary School. As soon as we opened the car’s doors we were right in the middle of the whole scenery. Our concerns about how we would get into contact with the people were washed away since everyone shook our hands and welcomed us warmly.
The headmaster led us into his office and we signed the guest book. Accompanied by pupils and mothers we got a tour around. Proudly they showed us the pretty new girls’ latrines. This is huge progress since now girls have more privacy then before and the possibility to wash. Washing hands is so familiar for us but here it is not common knowledge. This, too, is part of UNICEF’s work, supported by local partner FAWEMA (Forum for African Educationalists Malawi).
We then split into two groups. Some of us went with the girls to the girls’ forum, the others talked to the women of the mothers’ group.
Talking to the girls we learned a lot about their daily life and aims for their life. To the question: “What will you do after school?” all had immediately a clear answer: nurse, lawyer or doctor for example. We were very surprised that these 15 to 20-year-old young girls have a clear idea about their future plans, despite current difficulties. And the future is not over when you have a child. Most impressive was the example of one of the girls called Susan Mbeya who gave birth to her first child at the age of 14. Now she’s 20 and back in school, supported by her sister with babysitting.
At the end of our visit to the Secondary School we all met in the assembly hall, not knowing what to expect. As soon as we entered, all 270 pupils started to sing enthusiastically and with strong voices. We all were touched by that moment. Then followed a self-developed theatre play, inspired by loud applause from their classmates. The play showed that it takes community to bring back a girl to school. Something which the mothers’ group explained more deeply.
In the final prayer, we were included with the best wishes for our onward travel.