June 16 is celebrated as the Day of the African Child in honour of the student uprising in Soweto on June 16, 1976 when students marching against Apartheid were murdered (AU, 2020). As a celebration of this day, I will be sharing my submission for the 2019 #Blog4Dev Competition: What it will take to end child marriage in my country (Malawi) organized by the World Bank. My essay focused on investing in education because I believe that if we could improve access to education and keep kids in school we will end child marriage, poverty and other issues we face as a country. If you made a submission to the competition as well and would like to be featured on the blog, do get in touch.
LONG TERM AND MAJOR INVESTMENT IN EDUCATION
Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries, a statement that makes me wince whenever I read it. Poverty in Malawi is a painful reality and the biggest perpetrator of child marriage. If we are to end child marriage in Malawi, we need to financially empower every Malawian and we can do this by heavily investing in education. Malawi has weak governance systems and no matter how much money can be pumped into improving these systems, they will not work efficiently if we do not eradicate poverty. Education has the ability to empower citizens to make informed choices about their lives and improve their financial well being. We need to invest in better school infrastructure, a revised curriculum, smaller class sizes, more teachers, and more tertiary institutions. Malawi has poor school infrastructure and remote areas are adversely affected by this. We need to build more schools, ensure each school has good infrastructure and is equipped with a laboratory, library, and sports facilities. Malawi’s school curriculum is poor and does not equip students with practical skills they need. It is designed to cater to a system that already works, but the Malawi system is broken. We need to have a curriculum that helps to offer solutions to our current problems, unemployment is a big problem in Malawi, and yet we do not teach students entrepreneurship. Who is going to employ close to 70 percent of secondary students that will not to go to college. As research shows, some child brides “choose” to get married and one of the reasons given is poor school grades. When young girls decide to drop out of school due to repeating the same grade 3 or 4 times, it is no longer about the ability of the child but the failure of a system to cater to every child’s needs and capabilities. Smaller classroom sizes can provide students with adequate attention from their teachers and can foster an environment of learning. They would also help the teacher to engage more with their students. Teachers need to be compensated highly. Malawi does not compensate its teachers well enough and more people are leaving the profession than joining it. Our young population means we need more teachers now than ever before if we are to improve our circumstances as a nation. Tertiary education is still unattainable for the average Malawian and college tuition continues to skyrocket, it remains a pipe dream for more than half the Malawi population that lives in abject poverty, we need to invest in more tertiary institutions and make them affordable. Child marriage is a hindrance to the development of our economy and in as much as culture is a contributor, the inability of most families to financially care for their children, makes them make poor choices. Research has shown that every additional year a girl spends in school reduces the potential number of children she could have. A long term and major investment in education will help Malawi end child marriage.
Book Recommendation: “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge (the link leads to an edited extract from the book). Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book has topped the UK book charts making her the first Black British to achieve this. The circumstances under which this has happened are somehow unfortunate but it highlights the necessity of black perspectives in the media. #Blacklivesmatter