20 August 2018
Breaking News

Back to school initiative reshaping girls’ future

Written by  Martin Chiwanda
Anneti Zuze listening to lessons (putting hands on the desk) Anneti Zuze listening to lessons (putting hands on the desk)

NSANJE, July 18: Twenty-one-year-old Annette Zuze is elated that she was offered a new opportunity to go back to school after one mother group bailed her out of what could have been a prolonged life of poverty through marriage.

The hardships she went through in a marriage, an institution she entered at an early age of 14, years, were too much for her.

“The workload for marriage was too demanding for me as a young girl,” says Zuze who dropped out of school while in Form Two at Makhanga Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in Nsanje.

Her decision to go for early marriage followed after the death of her father some years back. She had no support since her helpless mother only relied on subsistence farming as a source of income.

But five years of marriage life for Zuze borne nothing good worth pointing at than misery. Now she is back to school in Form Two at Makhanga CDSS.

“Marriage can wait but my future cannot,” says Zuze who dumped marriage and returned to school two years ago.

Zuze is one of the scores of girls that have been withdrawn from child marriages. All this thanks to the extended hand of help from mother support groups operating in Nsanje with support from Campaign for Female Education (Camfed).

“Makhanga mother support group paid me a visit to appreciate some of the challenges that I was facing. I had lengthy discussion with some of the members,” says Zuze, a resident of Osiyana Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mlolo in Nsanje district.  

The encounter with the mother support group was the turning point in reconsidering the future direction of her life.

“I thought critically about the experience I was going through. I realized that it was not worth it and it was I went back to school and shape my destiny for the better.”

Now Zuze is back to school after she rejoined in Form One at Makhanga, which is located in Traditional Authority Mlolo in Nsanje.

Her commitment to school speaks volumes of a girl on a mission to achieve big in life. She rarely misses classes and always work hard to have any problem she is facing in a particular subject solved.

As a beneficiary to the inspiration by mother support groups, Zuze is grateful that she found her happiness back through schooling.

With support from Camfed, mother groups in Nsanje have facilitated the return of 74 girls to school in the 2017/18 academic year according to available statistics from Camfed office.

At Makhanga CDSS alone, 17 girls have returned to school within the same academic year with Zuze as one of them.

With the guidance of the Re-admission Policy, Camfed is working with different secondary schools in ensuring that girls who dropped out of school for a number of reasons are given a second chance.

Mostly, Camfed work with teachers who act as mentors to returning students.

LeahChimombo is a Camfed mentor teacher at Makhanga CDSS and she is all praises on how the initiative by Camfed is changing the negative perception about a girl child coming out of marriage to school.

“Previously, it was culturally difficult for people like Zuze, to integrate among their peers. They were often ridiculed, but now that is no longer the case,” Chimombo says.

The return of those people who withdrew from school because of pregnancy and child marriages is also serving as a conveyor belt for messages about the dangers getting married at a tender age.

“The young girls who have been to marriage come back with their stories that serve as an advice and a learning experience for others,” Chimombo says.

She cites the example of Zuze who is always handy in offering advice to fellow students on the negative effects of getting married at a tender age.

Kuchene Women’s Forum, a women’s rights local grouping in Nsanje that works closely with mother support groups, calls for more efforts to reach out to many girls who dropped out of school.

“There are many girls out there with the potential to go back to school and do better. What they need is some counselling and motivation,” says Gertrude Kalosi, director for Kuchene Women’s Forum.

She cites the brilliance of Zuze as a typical case of a brain that could have been wasted if she was not encouraged to go back to school.

“Annette Zuze has shown great character to excel. What we have learnt from her and the teachers is that she always tops her class.

“She is becoming a role model for motivating other girls especially those out of school,” Kalosi says.

For Zuze, she is determined to see through her dream. With the support of a bursary from Camfed and her commitment, she has all the weaponry to achieve her goal.

“Such opportunities come once in life. That is why I always work hard in class to fulfil my dream of becoming either a neurosurgeon or a nurse,” she says.

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