Enyezini school, Mzuzu
We had arrived.
An hour off the beaten track from Mzuzu, and down a dusty and orange scorched road, the red brick classrooms of the Enyezini community school came into sight. The classrooms were well over capacity with boys and girls of equal potential, but with different circumstances. For twenty-five girls in this particular school, one of many schools W4Z supports, financing their education is one less hurdle to overcome. A lifetime of cultural and societal challenges often stand in their way, but for these girls, there are now twenty-five opportunities left to their very capable minds.
Long distance learning
In this particular school, some children face a 40km round trip to get there. Each of the four classrooms we visited boasted 100 students or more, stuffy, hot, and sweaty, and with a warm and enthusiastic Malawian teacher in each – a dedication to the job and pride for their students evident in their eyes. This school is remote, the facilities are by far below what is on offer in Malawi in general, but the latest set of results show the majority of students here have reached or surpassed the national average in their grades.
The Girl Child Project
Florence, head of the W4Z Girl Child Project, was proud to inform one of the girls who W4Z supports, that she held “position two” in her class. When you consider that individual circumstance is the decisive factor determining who W4Z supports, offering assistance to girls from backgrounds that would otherwise have meant they could not attend school, then this result was no small feat. This girl’s result was a credit to her own hard work, her personal story unknown to me, but known to Florence. I didn’t need to know. It didn’t matter, because in that moment, she had come out on top regardless of the odds stacked against her. A bright future ahead.
The purpose of this journey was to advise the girls about their latest exam reports. Overall, the performances had improved and unknown to the girls, Florence was silently more thrilled about this than she portrayed through her stern words of motivation and encouragement, and a request for hard work to be maintained.
While we met with students and teachers, Florence was busy talking with five new girls who W4Z will now also support.
A big question from a young man
One question from the Form Two class took us all by suprise. It came from a boy who was part of a foursome in a desk meant for two, sleeves rolled up and a face aged with a frown and a seriousness beyond his years. He raised his hand, and with a confidence that demanded to know, asked why W4Z only funded girls. Harrisen, local W4Z representative, answered this question by boomeranging it back to the students. He gave them all an opportunity to guess why this was the case, or to talk to us about what they thought.
The girl child
One girl at the top of the class used the word “victimised” to describe how boys are given preference from their families to go to school over the girls, something which ignited gentle nods and looks of agreement from both sexes. The statistics are overwhelmingly clear that girls are less likely to have an opportunity to go to school, whether it be finance related, or for an array of other cultural traditions which often prevents them from doing so.
Harrisen finished with, “When you educate a boy, you educate an individual. When you educate a girl, you educate a family (nation).” It was just fitting that this week marked a day recognized by the UN as the International Day of the Girl Child. Two-hundred and fifty of whom, are supported by Wells for Zoë.