The Orant Journal

Students at Chayamba Secondary School Receive Masks and Sanitation Supplies. October 2020

Reopening Schools May Be the Safest Option for Girls in Malawi

School usually starts in Malawi on the 7th of September. This year was different because of Covid-19. The government allowed only students in their final year to return for national exams. All other students returned last week, the 12th of October. This included Orant’s 97 sponsored students

Covid-19 Precautions in Schools:

  • No more than 40 students per class.
  • No mask, no entry. Orant supplied sponsored students with masks from the Masks for Malawi campaign. (Shout out to our donors!) We now plan to distribute masks to entire schools. This will protect students’ health and education. 

Despite precautions, some students are afraid of getting sick at school. Two of Orant’s sponsored students opted to commute instead of live at a boarding house. But for many girls, the risks of staying home outweigh the risks of school. 

Not reopening schools can hurt a girl’s future. And it can hurt her present, too. 

Idle time and financial stress create a toxic environment for many women and girls. Rates of domestic abuse have increased during COVID worldwide. The director of People Serving Girls at Risk reported receiving distressing calls from Malawian women who need help. 

The number of child marriages and teen marriages has also increased in the last seven months, according to Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi. Being in a relationship with a man is often a pragmatic choice of survival. Girls will marry or engage in transactional sexual relations for money, food, and clothes. Parents marry off their girls so that they have one less mouth to feed. 

World Vision raised concern that COVID will increase pregnancies in young girls. When girls become pregnant in Malawi, their education usually ceases. Their school, government, family, or cultural norms enforce this. Senior Chief Theresa Kachindamoto called for a cultural shift. She wants chiefs to encourage girls to return to school after giving birth. Naysayers argue that this will spur more girls to become pregnant. Supporters hope it will propel more girls out of poverty. 

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