Mercy is a teacher in Zomba District, in the southern region of Malawi. Having grown up and completed school in Zomba, Mercy has first hand experience of the challenges many of her students face. Although from a poor family, her parents took care of several orphans in the community. Their compassion inspired Mercy to become a Teacher Mentor, helping the most marginalized girls in her school to fulfil their potential.
A pillar of Camfed’s support network, Teacher Mentors are government teachers who receive specialized training from Camfed in key facets of the program, including child protection and psychosocial support. Working closely with fellow teachers, Camfed alumnae in the CAMA network, and community members, Mercy plays a critical role in delivering the holistic support needed for her students to stay in school and succeed.
“The most vulnerable child in Malawi is the girl… If we help these girls, it means that one day, we will have a better Malawi.”
The challenges that schoolgirls in Mercy’s district face are rooted in poverty and the shortage of secondary schools in Malawi. As a result, many girls walk unthinkably long distances to and from school every day, often setting off on an empty stomach before dawn and returning after sunset. Weary, hungry and struggling to concentrate, girls may be late for class and have little or no time to study in the evenings, making it more difficult to do well in school. Girls from poor families are also especially vulnerable to exploitation, resulting in teen pregnancy or a promise of marriage, which may seem the only option in the face of financial insecurity and chronic youth unemployment.
Together with Camfed, Mercy is working to end this cycle and unleash the promise in girls.
“If you educate a girl, you educate the whole nation. So if we work hard, if we are educated, if we have the resources, we can make Malawi a beautiful country.”
Many students in Malawi walk long distances to school, making it more difficult for them to succeed (Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed).
Mercy organizes study circles in the school grounds to provide students with the academic support they need (Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed).
Working with a network of Camfed (CAMA) alumnae, Learner Guides, Parent Support Group members, traditional leaders, and other community members, Mercy helps to ensure that girls get the material, academic, and emotional support they need to stay in school.
After school, Mercy organizes study circles so that students can study in the school grounds before returning home. She works with the local Parent Support Group to coordinate school meal programs. She provides guidance counselling and sexual health education in collaboration with CAMA alumnae, who are role models and mentors to students, encouraging them not to give up. Mercy also meets with families to explain that the support Camfed and the wider community provide can remove the burden of their impossible choices, assisting girls through school, and into self-employment or further education.
“To me, when I see Camfed I see hope for girls… Girls from rural areas drop out of school because of poverty, but now, they are in school and have been provided with everything. So I see hope for girls, and I see that Malawi will be a better nation in the near future.”