Patricia with her mother
The joy of first love is always amazing and unforgettable. But its consequences are dangerous too. That is what 18-year-old Patricia Mitulo found out almost two years ago.
She fell in love at 15, dropped out of school in Standard 8 as a pregnant girl and almost a year later, she become a mother.
Her boyfriend denied responsibility. She paid ruefully for her acts and now points fingers at her yielding to peer pressure.
“I regret to have be-friended a wrong person,” Patricia says about her friend who also dropped out of school.
Life has been hard. The death of her father in 2008 left her mother as a sole breadwinner through a retail shop that is always poorly stocked.
Patricia is the first born in a family of five children and her pregnancy left her mother frothing with anger. The first child and only daughter she strived to educate had messed up.
“It is always difficult for my mother to support all of us,” Patricia says, “Then I come home pregnant, she couldn’t control herself and promised never to offer any support during my pregnancy,” she says.
It took a team of people from World Vision Malawi (WVM) to convince her mother that there is life after a mishap like an unwanted pregnancy.
The team, operating under an initiative called door way, counselled the mother to accept and provide necessary support for the girl to deliver and go back to school.
The door way initiative involves communities who were trained by WVM under Action for Adolescents and Youth programme as mentors to advocate for back to school campaign.
It has reached out to many girls in Thyolo including Patricia who comes from Mangasi Village in Traditional Authority Chimaliro in the district.
The young mother to a 10-month old baby is now back to school in Standard 8 at Chimvu Primary School in the same area.
When going to school, Patricia leaves the baby to her mother and worries much about school.
She says she comfortably participates in every class activity without any form of stigmatization and discrimination. But she cannot run away from the fact that she is a mother.
“I must admit that life is no longer the same. I have to concentrate on studies as well as nursing my baby especially when she is sick.
“Last academic term, my performance was poor because of this,” says Patricia, whose dream secondary school is Stella Maris in Blantyre.
Zione Mitulo, Patricia’s mother, is now happy that her daughter has gone back to school. She is still investing in the girl through moral and financial support.
“Every time, I advise her to concentrate on her studies. As a single parent, I still have challenges to provide basic necessities to the rest of the family, but for her education, I do my best,” the mother says.
She is hopeful that with education, the girl would achieve her goal of becoming a lawyer and support her siblings.
Texco Mukoma is head teacher at Chimvu Primary School and praises Patricia for her dedication and commitment towards her studies.
Mukoma says he is optimistic that Patricia would do better in Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations slated for May this year.
“Her class performance is satisfactory. If she continues like that, she will make the selection to any national and conventional secondary school,” Mukoma predicts.
Such a success would exorcist the troubling past of dropping out of school. Her story, according to Mukoma, would inspire more girls who dropped out of school to go back.
In Malawi, 11 percent of children in official primary school going ages are out of school due to a number of factors. Some of them include early marriages and pregnancies, the 2014 National Education Profile states.
It is because of this scenario that several stakeholders are making interventions to address the problem.
One of the players is World Vision Malawi, which is championing the Action for Adolescents and Youths (A4YA) programme in fourteen districts in the country.
In the southern region, WVM is implementing the programme in 32 traditional authorities (TAs) in five districts of Nsanje, Chikwawa, Thyolo, Machinga and Mangochi.
The program, which started in October 2016 and ends in March this year, uses different approaches to effectively engage children and the youth.
The approaches include doorways, youth ready, early childhood development, entrepreneurship and literacy boost.
WVM technical programmes manager for education, Florence Pwele, says that since the inception of the programme in October 20l6, many girls, including Patricia, have returned to school.
“Close to 34 girls have been rescued from early marriages and 14 have gone back to school in the three districts of Salima, Chikwawa and Thyolo,” Pwele says.
Government says it appreciates interventions from various development players in the education sector.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Lindiwe Chide commends WVM’s for its initiative in promoting girl child education through its programme of back to school.
“This is a welcome intervention in line with the re-admission policy. Let us all work hard like WVM in keeping our girls in school,” Chide says.
world vision malawi