Malawi’s First Lady wears school uniform to boost girl education
Lilongwe – It is not in a lifetime for one to see the First Lady of a country getting down to earth to wear a school uniform, but last week Malawians had a rare chance to see their First Lady clad in a school uniform on a catwalk all in a bid to boost awareness of the importance of girls education and to raise funds for the girl child education.
Studies have proved that girls in Malawi have to move mountains and insurmountable obstacles if they hope to complete their education.
The girls’ battle to get an education falls within the shocking statistic that only 20 percent of Malawi’s children complete primary school.
So in a bid to reverse this, Gertrude Mutharika, donning a blue Jim dress, white shirt uniform and white stockings smiling like a standard eight school girl, made her catwalk debut carrying a Beautify Malawi Trust (BEAM) branded school bag to the surprise of her husband President Peter Mutharika who attended the Buy Malawi Fashion show.
Speaking during the event, Mutharika said the girl child education is a symbol of sustainable development since educated girls can ably take part in development activities. The show was part of activities at a fundraising state luncheon held at Kamuzu Palace which was organised by the Beautify Malawi Trust (BEAM) in support of girl child education.
“If a girl child is educated, she can be in a better position to make informed choices pertaining to her health. She can become a catalyst for change by reversing overpopulation and gender imbalances,” she said.
Mutharika said that women in the country should be helping and inspiring each other so that more women should be in leadership positions.
“Women should yearn to inspire one another to strive towards attaining leadership positions as well as engaging in entrepreneurship activities,” she said.
Mutharika then hailed the support she received for the event saying it will spur her to continue organising more events to help girls.
Chikondi Makani, a 13-year-old pupil from Lilongwe, said she was impressed to see the First Lady wear a uniform.
“If she wanted to inspire girls then I have been inspired. Imagine seeing her humbling herself wearing a uniform is massive, I have never seen anything like and if we are not inspired what will,” she said.
Another girl from Blantyre, Sophie Banda, said this was a good move.
“I just love how our First Lady is a people person. She knows how to interact and her intention to inspire girls has just come at the right time when a lot of girls do not value school at all,” she said.
BEAM Trust, which was established in September 2014, currently supports 1,000 girls and 75 of them are young mothers on back to school programme.
The Malawi National Human Development Report (MNHDR), released in May, put the student mix in secondary schools at 72 percent boys and 28 percent girls and said only 27 percent of university admissions were women.
While boys also struggle through difficulties, such as being taken out of school during peak agricultural activities, getting an education appear to be more difficult for girls.
Poverty and economic conditions are often yard sticks that are used to decide whether an education is possible. One of the main obstacles is the perception that boys’ education is still seen as more important. Girls often start school at a later age – eight instead of six – and are weighed down with “burdensome involvement” in household chores while trying to find time for their schooling, a recently conducted UNICEF survey stated.