National

Chinunkha mothers sacrificing own resources to serve vulnerable girls in Chitipa

Chinunkha Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) is one of the community day secondary schools located in remotest areas of Chitipa District with most of its inhabitants surviving through farming.

The school is located at a distance of about 17 Kilometers from Chitipa boma where even basic services are a challenge. Before December 2018, Chinunkha CDSS had no special structure to support girls’ education, as a result, girls at the school faced a lot of challenges. CRECCOM through the Improving Education Quality in CDSS (IEQ-CDSS) project introduced the mother group as one structure that would work with the school, community, and girls themselves to ensure girls retention and completion of secondary education. Among others, the group provided a comprehensive mentorship program to adolescent girls in different areas including the importance of education, reproductive health, menstrual hygiene management, gender-based violence, drug and alcohol abuse, HIV/AIDS mitigation and prevention, peer mobilization, mothering, and grief counseling.

Some members of Chinunkha mother group

Additionally, the group brought back over seven drop-out girls to school. To the group, the interventions had gaps since most of the girls they brought back to school were facing challenges such as lack of basic needs and scholastic materials. To ensure that girls are being supported fully, the group ventured into Agribusiness to raise funds through farming and selling the products. In 2019, the group grew groundnuts but could not make enough proceeds since the land they used for growing groundnuts was rented at a very high rate.

“Renting land for farming is very expensive in this area. Small pieces of land can cost over K50,000.00. We were desperate for cheap land to farm to support vulnerable girls at our school,” narrated the mother group chairperson. To mitigate this challenge, three Mother group members namely Towera Sikwese, Catherine Silungwe, and Olipa Nyondo offered their fields for free.

Crop field given by Chinunkha mother group

“I have been farming on this land to feed my family. I lost my husband some 7 years ago and am the breadwinner for my kids. I farm every year and sell some of the products for other necessities at home. I still felt the need to share a part of the land with the mother group so that we can grow groundnuts, sell and support vulnerable girls. We are anticipating to realize over MK200,000.00 out of the land. This money will be used to support vulnerable learners like Kettie Mtega form 2.

The Mother group engaged two boys from the school to cultivate the land and paid them NK8,000.00. The boys Alfred Silungwe and Martin Mhlane needed money to pay for their school fees.

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