17 November 2017
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Empowering journey back to school

Written by  Loness Gwazanga
JOY OF SCHOOL: Trinity Samden is thankful for the back to school programme - Pic by Loness Gwazanga JOY OF SCHOOL: Trinity Samden is thankful for the back to school programme - Pic by Loness Gwazanga

BLANTYRE, November 09, 2017: She was a young girl, naïve and in love. Typical of the transitional process from adolescent to teenage, she had this overwhelming curiosity to explore the world. But the adventure crashed down badly for one Trinity Samden.

At 20, Samden already has a four-year-old child.  She fell pregnant at 16 when she was about to sit for her Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations.

The future was bleak because the man who impregnated her was a fellow teenager living with a financially unstable single mother. 

She vividly recalls this difficult time during her school at Senzani Primary in Ntcheu.

“I had lost hope in life. I just wanted to find other ways of surviving in order to fend for myself. I knew I would have to take risks that would endanger my life,” says Samden who comes from Senzani in Sub Traditional Authority (STA) Tsikulamowa in Ntcheu district.

Now mature and responsible, Samden is currently putting her life back together thanks to the re-admission policy that the Malawi Government has in place in the education sector.

Currently, Samden is in form four at New Vision Private Secondary School in Ntcheu. All this thanks to World Vision Malawi (WVM) through the Senzani Community Development Organization (SECODO) Mother Group.

The two organisations managed to trace down the girl and convinced her to return to school despite being a teen mother.

Samden believes that she made the right decision to go back to school.

“I never thought of returning to school. But taking this bold step is the best decision I made. I am happy and my mother is happy too and she is always eager to support me,” she says.

Trinity Samden is one of the girls that SECODO has managed to take back to school.

The mother group is on a campaign to promote girls’ education through a Get Back to School Project. With the knowledge and skills gained from WVM, the group has managed to reduce the number of school drop-outs by 50 percent, according SECODO mother group chairperson Patricia Biliati.
  
“We realized that teen mothers have a full life ahead of them which cannot turn out well without an education,” says Biliati.

The process of convincing both a girl and her parents in the Get Back to School initiative is simple.

“We first approach parents of girl to find out their intentions about their daughter’s futures. Some parents support our vision as was the case with Trinity whose mother was eager to support her with school fees,” Biliati says.

There is hope that the initiative will stimulate interest for school from girls.

Director for New Vision Secondary School Fanwell Katete says about 90 percent of young mothers enrolled at their school show willingness in their studies and make it in life.

He adds that returning to school is not an easy road for the teen mothers. Usually, they are always hounded by stigma and discrimination on top of the trauma they go through during their pregnancy.

“I have been a patron before and I have counseling and guidance skills. When I feel they are not concentrating, I guide and encourage the students so that the idea of dropping out of school never crosses their minds,” Katete says.

At the centre of getting girls back to school in Senzani community is WVM, which has been operational in the area for the past 34 years.

WVMs national director Hazel Nyathi says apart from the Get Back to School Initiative, her organization has also supported a numbers of projects on improving access to quality education.

Some of the projects include construction of teachers’ houses and school blocks.

WVM is happy to see that teen mothers who return to school also find comfort in the established structures like school blocks.  

“We celebrate our achievement in working with the parents and leaders of this community in creating a better environment for their children. This is the environment where the children are not just living but thriving,” Nyathi says.  

For government, it is always pleasing to see development partners for taking some burden off its shoulders.                                  

Director of Special Duties in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, James Manyetera commends WVM’s efforts in changing peoples’ lives by saying that government alone cannot manage to provide everything for its citizens.  

He says girls like Trinity Samden deserve a second chance in life.

“It is only through good education that people can become productive citizens of the county and fend for themselves,” Manyetera says.

WVM opened its doors in Senzani in 1983. Since then, the organization has reached out to over 46,000 people with different developmental initiatives. 

Apart from WVM, a number of players including traditional leaders are supporting government’s readmission policy that advocates for girls to return to school after falling pregnant.

Some traditional authorities like Senior Chief Nkhulambe of Phalombe District have even gone ahead to end teenage marriages in their areas for girls to return to school.

Indeed, teen mothers deserve a second chance in life. For Trinity Samden, her chance has rekindled the dream that was almost dead.

“I can be whatever I want but I am interested to be a journalist, a teacher or a scientist,” says Samden.

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