Charcoal selling is illegal in the country yet that is the business Peter Chikweza ventured into after dropping out of school a few years ago. After being orphaned while still in school, a murky atmosphere engulfed this Bolero teenager’s life and the future looked hazy and bleak. Chances of continuing with school were at zero percent.
Back to school
“I had to find ways of surviving. I knew it could be difficult to find someone to pay for my school fees in secondary school. So looking at the forests in my village, I thought I would savage a life from the bush hence the charcoal business,” says Chikweza.
He confesses that there was no comfort in the business.
“It was a business I ventured into just because of the problems I was facing. Otherwise, I was feeling guilt for felling the trees for my charcoal; the process itself is also very tiring,” he says. Peter‘s story is a different tale today thanks to Life Concern Organisation (LICO), a local NGO based in Bolero, Rumphi, which whisked him out of the charcoal market and sent him back to school together with some 18 other beneficiaries.
Peter’s story is not an isolated case in the rural areas of Rumphi specifically in Bolero where LICO is based. There are many orphaned children who have dropped out of school due to lack of school fees and other learning needs that need to be sent to the classroom.
In April 2012, LICO through The Herbert William Scholarship Fund sent 19 children back to school assisting them with school fees and uniform. The children were identified through the District Social Welfare Office and traditional leaders from the area.
So far, this programme has helped reduce the number of school drop outs in the area, especially orphaned girls who become more vulnerable to abuses when they are not in school.
Due to several factors among them culture and the HIV/AIDS wave, many girls drop out of school in the country, making them perpetual economic dependants, a situation that makes them prone to all sorts of abuse.
The Herbert William Scholarship Fund is an initiative by John Powlton – a United Kingdom national – established in honour of his grandfather Herbert Williams who died when John was Volunteering at LICO in Malawi. This is a family fund which aims to see that the orphaned are supported so that they access education. John Powlton worked with LICO for six weeks as a volunteer under the Accounting for International Development (AFID) mission. John had passion with the school dropout cases of orphaned children.
The students have since written their sponsor Powtoln thanking him for sending them back to school and LICO for taking a leading role in identifying the sponsor.
When schools break, the students are engaged in other activities like guidance and counseling at LICO office.
Another beneficially Donaless Chipofya says her life and plans have completely changed with the coming of the scholarship. She is one of the 13 girls who are in secondary school under the scholarship. Six are boys.
Meanwhile, LICO is exploring other ways of finding resources to send more orphaned children to school. If supported, such initiatives can help reduce the high dependency burden and the high illiteracy levels in Malawi’s societies. That is only when Donaless and the Peters of Bolero and far are given education.
Donaless Chipofya is now back to school