By Kenson McCloud
Government says efforts of implementing the School Re-admission Policy among girls who have been withdrawn from child marriages continue to be frustrated due to limited financial resources.
Deputy Director for Child Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Justin Hamera, told Timveni that children in the country continue to be subjected to abuse due to limited resources allocated towards children's affairs.
Chikwawa and Machinga are some of the districts with high rates of school dropouts among underage children due to early pregnancies and child marriages.
For instance, in Machinga alone about 7,353 students dropped out of school in 2020 alone. This represents about 3.5 percent of all students enrolled in that year. In Chikwawa, about 5,391 children dropped out of school in the same year.
These cases were registered a year after the Ministry of Education, Science and Education had launched an amended school re-admission policy for primary and secondary schools which among others seeks to promote girl-child education in the country.
Despite efforts to ensure the smooth implementation of the policy, girls who have been withdrawn from child marriages are still facing numerous challenges in their attempt to return to school, with financial challenges topping the list.
As one way for lobbying for support towards the cause, Breakthrough Action organized full council meetings in Machinga and Chikwawa in a bid to advocate for increased funding for activities aimed at ending Child and Early Forced Marriages where central government officials and district council members banged heads on how to increase the funding using available resources in councils including local revenue and Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
Currently, CDF which is pegged at MWK100 Million per constituency has an allocation of 5% towards bursary for students in secondary schools.
Hamera, admits that the current allocation is not enough to cater for all students especially girls who have been withdrawn from child marriages hence the need to increase the allocation.
However, Hamera said there's need to develop proper procedures and new guidelines so that bursaries are well disbursed to achieve efficiency.
He further said the Ministry of Gender is lobbying with the Ministry of Finance to allocate special funds towards ending child marriages in the country and supporting girls who have been withdrawn from child marriages to go back to school.
In her reaction, District Commissioner for Machinga District, Rosemary Nawasha, urged departments within the council to incorporate issues of ending child marriages and teenage pregnancies in different activities implemented in the communities.
Nawasha said communities need to be fully sensitized on the importance of ending child marriages and taking the responsibility to ensure that the children return to school.
Breakthrough Action is aimed at ending child, early and forced marriages through mindset change and is being implemented with funding from United States Agency for International Development (USAID).