As Malawi joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of the Girl Child which falls on Saturday, 11th October, the Catholic Education Commission in Malawi (CECOM) an arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) calls on all the stakeholders to work towards improving the quality and access to education in the country.
In a statement released by the Commission , the national educational policy officer for ECM, Steven Ndhlovu said through the statement that a snapshot of the larger picture is that the education sector in Malawi is facing a number of challenges hence the call to action by all stakeholders as we commemorate the day, and think about the Girl Child’s Education in particular.
Ndhlovu indicates in the statement that Child marriages is one of the main barriers to education for young girls in Malawi. He said, on average, half of all girls are married by their 18th birthday and nearly a quarter are married by the age of 15.
“When girls marry at a young age it often means that they are taken out of school and denied any chance at a future. During the period between 2010 and 2013, more than 27,000 girls in Malawi dropped out of primary schools because of marriage, “reads part of the statement.
The statement however urges the faith-based communities and traditional leaders to join hands in educating communities about the advantages of delaying the age of marriage and supporting the government to increase the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18 years.
According to Ndhlovu, CECOM is working tirelessly to ensure that a national action plan to combat the consequences of child marriage and secure every young girl’s right to education is implemented.
“Malawi is the country with the 7th highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world. Our girls are being unfairly denied their right to a future and we must take action,” he said.
Among other challenges noted in the statement include the enrolment rate which is currently at 97.5 percent primary net enrolment, school completion rated at 51 percent survival to last grade primary, child labour at 26 percent of children in child labour and teachers being at 74/1 pupil/teacher ratio.
There are about 293,000 primary school-age children in Malawi who are not going to school,a number according to Ndhlovu “must be reversed”.
On current trends, Malawi will fall well short of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on universal primary education by the end of 2015.