It was a cloudy Tuesday morning and I was set for school while dressed in blue uniform. It was raining heavily. I remember whispering to myself, ‘no rain can stop me from attending classes’. However, what I did not know was that the biggest barrier on this day was not going to be the rains but rather some bad news from my dad.
This is the story of Lucy Matewele 19, from Village Headman Safali, Traditional Authority Njema in Mulanje. Lucy loved education because, as she was told, ‘it was the key to her future’. Favourably, all her friends and loved cousins were mostly at the same school. Every day, therefore, it meant class work and just like most girls, any school break was time for fun and play.
Lucy loved netball and enjoyed playing in the school team. In class, Lucy was equally serious. She never repeated classes – she always passed with flying colours.
On the fateful Tuesday morning, she got up early, took her shower in family’s grass-thatched bathroom in readiness for another exciting day at school, only to be called by her Father.
“My daughter Lucy, you’re not going to school anymore. We don’t have school fees!” her father announced.
Lucy felt her world crumbling under her feet. For two years she was out of school.
Fast forward to 2016. Lucy’s story took another twist when Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) under Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) project with financial support from Action Aid through Christian Aid, trained Village Savings and Loans (VSL) groups in her village as one way of empowering girls and women.
Lucy joined the village savings and loan groups.
“When YONECO came we were given a chance to start borrowing money from the group which we pay back with interest.
“For a start, I borrowed MK20, 000 which I invested in the business of bans and as I am talking I am assured of sitting for Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations that I have already paid for with proceeds from my business,” she says.
Lucy narrates that she is now enrolled at Maveya Open Community Day Secondary school.
She challenges other girls to stop giving excuses but instead work hard by among other things starting small scale businesses that can help them find their needs.
“Lack of a writing material, notebook and school bag is no reason enough for a girl to drop out of school,” she says.
Lucy urges girls in the district to join VSL groups as YONECO makes them open to everyone irrespective of race or tribe.
Lucy dreams of becoming an accountant one day and going by the adage “an idle brain is the devils workshop” she makes sure that her day is filled with a proper plan of action to avoid getting entangled in behaviors that might disturb her future.
“For instance this rainy season I start my day by going to the field which is along the road just close to my house.
“I do so while my baked buns are ready for sale in the basket that I put along the same road thereby killing two birds with one stone. Thereafter, I go home to prepare food for myself before hitting the road to school,” she says.