First Ladies Madam Professor Gertrude Mutharika of Malawi and Maesaiah Thabane of Lesotho on Monday officially opened a girls hostel at Sopa Community Secondary School in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mduwa Mchinji built by Beautify Malawi Trust (BEAM).
The construction of the hostel was necessitated, following an increase in the drop out of girls at the school due to pregnancies with over 100 students dropping out in three years (2014 to 2016.)
Speaking at the ceremony, Madam Mutharika said BEAM embarked on the construction of the girls’ hostel program in community day secondary schools across the country two years ago, as part of the keep-girls-in-school initiative to complement government efforts in in promoting girls’ education.
“The initiative is a long term strategy to empower women and achieve a cleaner, greener and healthier Malawi,” she said.
She said BEAM noted that most girls, especially in community day secondary schools in rural areas, were dropping out of school due to early marriages and pregnancies at an alarming rate because they walk long distances to school.
”It is in between home and school that some girls are coaxed into sexual relationships or even raped and they get pregnant. In a desperate measure to stay closer to school, some girls rent houses in insecure places with poor sanitation facilities making them prone to diseases and immoral behaviour,” she explained.
The First Lady said the construction was a way of giving the girls a decent accommodation to enable them complete their education without challenges.
In her speech, her counterpart Lesotho First Lady, Maesaiah Thabane commended Madam Mutharika through her BEAM Trust for supporting girls in rural Malawi with bursaries and hostels making the girls stay in school.
“I commend Madam Mutharika for the great contribution she is making in educating the Malawi nation through the girl child education. What you are giving to Malawi and the girls is the most perfect gift, which we should all try to give our girls to achieve meaningful social and economic development,” she said.
She said to break the cycle of poverty in communities there is need to educate the girl child.
“If we want to reduce and end gender based violence against women we must send our future women to school. If we want to achieve women empowerment we must invest and educate our girls,” she added.
Madam Thabane said the hostels were a perfect example of a mothers loving heart as mothers feel the pain of their children.
She then called on more stakeholders to work hard to provide resources to help keep girls in school.
In his remarks, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Bright Msaka applauded the efforts by BEAM in promoting girls’ education in the country.
He said Sopa community secondary school has a catchment area of 23 primary schools with some walking up to 20 kilometres to the school in quest for education.
“The Ministry of education intends to ensure that every Malawian is educated beyond primary school, so the task of providing infrastructure is now going to become more, therefore we count on Madam Mutharika’s generosity and support in the education sector so that we realise the government’s vision,” he said.
Msaka said girls face a lot of challenges in their education and there is need to protect them from the challenges they face.
“My ministry will work with traditional leaders and communities to ensure that girls are supported. “You are assisting us with bursaries for the girls coming from poor families and they can now attain education, due to the support,” he said.
During the function Madam Mutharika symbolically presented bursaries and other learning materials to over 20 girls from four community day secondary schools in the district.
After the function, the First Ladies also visited mothers at Mikundi health centre where she donated various items.