By Lulutani Tembo, UNICEF Malawi
It was a historic evening for children in Malawi on Wednesday 5 December at Mt. Soche hotel in Blantyre. Dignitaries from different sectors in the country gathered to be a part of the launch of Funo Langa, a fundraising campaign for the Girls Secondary Education Trust Fund. This was set up to provide access to quality education for vulnerable students in Malawi, particularly girls.
The Trust brings together existing scholarship schemes run by different organisations, including UNICEF, and will mobilize additional financial and technical resources to help academically successful students from poor backgrounds finish their secondary education. The funds raised will be used to pay for full school fees as well as school uniforms, school bags, sanitary pads, and stationery.
Sarah Mvulu is one of the girls to benefit from a UNICEF secondary school scholarship. The scholarship was given to her when she started Form 4, and she went on to achieve an outstanding 6 points, the highest score a student can receive in their MCSE examinations. Sarah’s achievements are even greater when she tells her story and what she had to overcome to be so successful in school. The audience applauded when it was revealed that Sarah has now received a further scholarship to study Medicine at Shandong University, in China.
Dressed in smart suits and cocktail dresses, the mood was positive and upbeat as the launch of the fundraising campaign brings new hope to girls like Sarah in Malawi. The cocktail reception was initiated by UNICEF Malawi’s Representative, Johannes Wedenig who appealed to the private sector for their support for the Trust to help make secondary education accessible to all.
“This fundraising campaign is unique and is a first for us in UNICEF Malawi”, Johannes said. “It is rare to have fundraising campaigns in low-income countries. We would like all corporates to contribute to the Trust Fund because your financial support is the support that many children in Malawi need”, Johannes said.
UNICEF Malawi, in its engagement with the private sector, promoted the Secondary Education Trust as a way that businesses in Malawi can support the education of vulnerable children in the country. Companies were encouraged to pool their contributions to the education sector. In that way, they will have a greater impact and ensure that Malawi’s most vulnerable children can access secondary education.
More inspiration for girls came when the only female CEO in the banking sector in Malawi, Mrs Zandile Shaba, came to the podium to give her remarks. She lamented that rates of secondary school completion for girls in Malawi remains low, and that the prevalence of child marriage continues to rise. One way to keep girls in school is by various sectors of the economy joining together to invest in the future of human capital in Malawi.
“We cannot leave this issue to Government alone. It is too big and too important”, Zandile said. “But we can achieve much by partnering together. We believe that public private sector partnership is the best solution to support the development agenda of Malawi and it’s our contribution to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.”
A representative from the Board of Trustees, Mrs Temwani Simwaka, said the launch of the campaign was a very exciting time for Malawi. “For any country to progress, it needs to invest in education,” she said. “Evidence suggests that educating girls and women is a particularly smart investment as benefits are more far-reaching not only for the individual but for the country as well.”
UNICEF’s Champion for Children Sangie, a popular reggae musician, also attended the launch. She spoke of how education benefitted her and said that supporting girl’s education is important to make sure girls are self-reliant, and able to protect themselves from domestic violence.
In Malawi, 64% of young people do not have educational qualifications. At the same time, the number of out-of-school girls is higher than that of boys. This leads to low levels of employment for girls, who often find themselves lacking opportunities for career growth.
From the Ministry of Education Science and Technology, Deputy Director for Secondary Education Mrs Ruth Samati said that the Ministry’s work with development partners, and now the private sector, will ensure that necessary resources are being put to better the lives of girls in Malawi.
“This Trust will go a long way to promote the education of girls in Malawi,” she said. “The private sector is the driver of the economy and benefits from the development of the human resource from the education sector. Most of you have gone through our own schools and universities. I reach out to you to support the Government efforts in improving girls’ education.”
To donate to Funo Langa, you can make a cash or cheque donation to the following bank account details:
New Finance Bank, Account name: Funo Langa, Account number: 5010482065008.
For just 125,000 kwacha you can support a vulnerable child’s education for one year.