Providing for the education of secondary students is the primary goal of MCF. The challenges that face Malawi cannot be solved by international groups. Giving the next generation of Malawians the tools to solve their own problems and the chance to make a better life for their families is key to their future.
There are many challenges for families hoping to send their children to secondary school. Secondary school tuition costs are usually too expensive for families in rural areas. Uniforms, books and supplies make the cost of attending school out of reach for even more families. An additional barrier to school attendance, particularly for girls, is the distance to quality schools. Boarding fees are often the most expensive part of attending school, yet are necessary. Due to these difficulties, the attendance rate drops from 85% for primary school to 27% for secondary schools. For girls living in rural areas, this percentage is even lower.
One important aspect of secondary school is learning English. Chichewa is the primary language in Malawi, and nearly all primary schools are taught in Chichewa. Secondary school is where students learn English, which is the official language and is necessary to secure employment. Without a secondary school education and the language skills that come with that education, the only option for most people is subsistence farming.
In order for MCF’s programs to be successful in improving the lives of children and families, identification of students and close monitoring and support for each student is important. MCF has reached agreements with two local community groups, the Nkhoma Orphan Project and a South African group connected with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) that will increase our ability to identify students who have academic potential and then monitor and support those students.
The Nkhoma Orphan Project receives requests for help from local villages who have children who did well enough on their national examinations to be selected to attend the top national or district schools, but have lost one or both parents. Due to the financial impact of losing a parent, none of these children would be able to attend school without the help of MCF.
The Orphan Project agreed to provide MCF with information on eligible students. Once MCF agrees to fund the students, the Orphan Project will monitor students, ensure they have adequate food and medical care and send copies of report cards. Because the Orphan Project’s administrative costs are covered through other programs, there is no additional administrative cost to MCF. All donor funds directly pay for tuition and associated fees such as books, uniforms and boarding.
The South African group works out of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. The group runs a variety of youth programs in the Central Region of Malawi. They provide assistance to impoverished teenagers who have a variety of social problems but show promise as students and future leaders. Although the organization can provide help with many of their needs, they are unable to provide help with school fees.
With the help of MCF, these students are able to attend school and also work in their local communities on projects such as reforestation and home improvements in local villages. Access to education coupled with the development of team and leadership skills will hopefully equip these young men and women with the skills for becoming leaders in their communities after graduation.