The rate of school dropout among girls due to teen pregnancies and child marriages is expected to drop in Thyolo district following the implementation of community by-laws that impose fines for parents whose children drop out of school.
Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM) through ‘Empowering Girls through Education’ (EGE) project with funding from Rise Up facilitated the formation of such by-laws to be implemented in Traditional Authority Changata.
CRECCOM’s Community Engagement Officer, Thomas Chimwaza said so far the process is at an advanced stage to implement the community by-laws in a bid to address high rate of school dropout among girls.
“Community leaders were engaged to design the by-laws together with members of the community and they were sent to the office of District Commissioner to be scrutinized so that they should be in line with the country’s laws,” he said.
Chimwaza disclosed this during girls retreats targeting 100 adolescent girls from the four impact primary schools of Masambanjati, Muwalo, Malosa and Chikumba in Traditional Authority (TA) Changata.
He said the girls retreats are aimed at providing a platform to girls to be counselled and inspired by elder girls, Mother Groups, female teachers and local leaders.
Chimwaza said adolescent girls engage in sexual relationships in school mainly due to peer pressure which leads to teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
One of the participants, 14-year-old standard five learner at Masambanjati Primary School, Mary Sumbuleta said the girls retreats will help her to stay away from sexual relationships and concentrate on studies.
“Here at school if you are not in a relationship you are laughed at by your fellow girls so because of this you also indulge in relationships with boys and even men,” she said.
Mable Madeya, a teacher at the same school said among other reasons, a lot of adolescent girls in the area engage in sexual relationships to get money.
“Some girls are engaged in sexual relationships on their own wish to get money for their school necessities but for others parents are to blame for tolerating such kind of behaviour,” Madeya said.
She described the girls retreats as crucial in addressing such challenges as they also provide a platform to girls to get counselling from female role models from the same area who succeeded through education.
Head teacher at Chikumba Primary School in Masambanjati Education Zone Clemence Nyowera said the rate of school dropout among girls is high at the school.
“The rate is 9 to 10 percent which means out of 100 girls, almost 9-10 girls dropout of school every year,” Nyowera said.
He expressed optimism that the project will address the challenge in order to keep more girls in school.
EGE is an advocacy intervention specifically targeting the challenges that teen mothers and other girls who drop out of school face in the course of going back and remaining in school.