At fledgling age of 13 while in Standard 6, a girl from Chingareza Village in the area of Traditional Authority Kasakula in Ntchisi District, Bertha surnamed Yohane, had already given birth to her first child, Memory Ronard. The shame that the aforesaid incident attracts to itself notwithstanding, her parents encouraged her to go back to school at Nanzombo Primary. She obliged. Irrespective of the lost years during pregnancy and after delivery, Bertha demonstrated rare knack and she emerged, in that year, as the only candidate from that school to pass standard 8 examinations and got selected to Kasakula Secondary School in the District.
From face value, it would seem as though Bertha is best suit to be called recidivist for while in form one Bertha was impregnated again. She then, as a consequence of the incident, opted to get married to the man responsible for the pregnancy.
Born in a family of 5 and her being the fourth born, her family survives on subsistence farming. As is common with such families as this, facts are that it has recurrently been a struggle for the parents to provide for all the five children. Adequately. Evidently, in Bertha’s best judgment, getting married seemed the most convenient option. The aforementioned recourse was to her as an escape from the strangulating cord of poverty chocking her family of orientation.
Ironically, however, with the passing of time, storms started to rage on the sea. Hell broke loose as reality started to sink in her family of reproduction. The whilom nice and charming man turned into an unbearable monster. The husband started spending most of his time in drinking joints forgetting his responsibilities as a husband, father and provider.
At this point and in reference to what she was going through, Bertha had only two options: to get back to her home or endure the ordeal. It was until 2019 when she met Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) officials who saw potential in this young girl and motivated her to get back to school on bursary canopied under ‘Stop Child Marriage (STOM) Project.
Speaking in an interview with Nyasa Times, Bertha said she thought getting into marriage would offer the most sought after freedom from poverty but confessed that she was awfully wrong.
She further said, gratefully, that the coming in of Evangelical Association of Malawi’s Stop Child Marriage’ project changed her way of thinking and got convinced to jump out from the marriage trap and start chasing her dreams of becoming a journalist.
“I thank Evangelical Association of Malawi for opening my eyes. It was exciting and a dream come true when I walked back to school on their bursary. From that day I started focusing on my studies to achieve my goals,” she said.
Her decision to get back to school was awesome but it got sour as fellow leaners had to call her all sorts of names. That, however, did not attenuate her resolve of accessing quality education.
According to Bertha, she could have given up but the reasons were not enough to do so considering that she had already passed through hell during the time she was married. She contrasted that the degree of insults at school wasn’t close to match the magnitude of challenges she faced while she was married.
Now 18, Bertha dreams of becoming a journalist to ably serve the Malawi population through news gathering and information sharing.
Bertha’s father, Yohane Mafika, thanked EAM for the life changing initiative saying Bertha is now transformed and is focusing on her education.
“My daughter is very bright, only that I haven’t been able to give her all necessary support to access quality education. Now let me thank Evangelical Association of Malawi through their project called ‘Stop Child Marriage’ for coming with the support she really wanted to chase her dreams,” he appreciatively said.
Ntchisi District Council Youth Officer, Grey Kalampa, unveiled that cases of child marriage and school dropouts were on the surge in the district. However, the intervention by Evangelical Association of Malawi through ‘Stop Child Marriage’ project has reduced the numbers.
He further said the battle against child marriages needs collective efforts and urged both religious and traditional leaders to put their hands together for the cause for, the age old adage says, when spiders unite, they can tie down a lion. No doubt, especially with respect to the challenge we have at hand, unity is something to be desired, to be striven for, but it cannot be willed by mere declarations.
Evangelical Association of Malawi ‘Stop Child Marriage’ Project Coordinator, Amos Chibwana, said as an organisation, they believe that education is a key to success and that helping young boys and girls to access education is not a waste of resources but rather an investment.
Chibwana further averred that the project intends to achieve a lessening of child marriages through provision of school bursaries which is led by Press Trust, Vocational Skills training through TEVETA. This incorporates community activities led by EAM targeting boys and girls withdrawn from child marriages and those who are at risk of child marriages.
“Our vision and desire is to reach out to many boys and girls and help them realize the power of education. We will also try to lobby some girl to imitate what Bertha did. The decision was not a piece of cake but she didn’t think otherwise,” he said
Chibwana said the project is open to all girls and boys without respect to creed, race, nationality, or any other circumstances and they are willing to see both young boys and girls prospering in whatever they do and make their dreams come true.
He also emphasized that giving access to education for boys and girls is not only a moral duty but also a fundamental step to improve the country’s development.
With funding from Dan Church Aid ‘Stop Child Marriage’ (STOM) project is being implemented by a consortium of Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), TEVETA and Press Trust, targeting all Traditional Authorities including Nthondo, Kasakula, Chilooko, Malenga, Vuso Jere, Kalumo and Chikho.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :