By Duncan Mlanjira
UNICEF has partnered with New Finance Bank (NFB) and the Ministry of Education by launching a Girls Secondary Education Trust, which is a fundraising campaign that has been set up to provide access to quality education for vulnerable girl students in Malawi.
During the launch held at Mount Soche Hotel on Wednesday, UNICEF Malawi’s country representative Johannes Wedenig said the Trust will be mobilising financial and technical resources to help academically successful girls from poor backgrounds finish their secondary education.
“The funds raised will be used to pay for full school fees as well as school uniforms, school bags, sanitary pads and stationery,” Wedenig said. “The Trust brings together existing scholarship schemes run by different organisations, including UNICEF and is meant to ensure that we are more efficient and effective in reaching out to all children in need of support to get a secondary education.
“UNICEF has been working with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to make quality secondary school education accessible to all Malawian children but while the enrollment rates at primary school level are high, the rates drop significantly at secondary level.”
He said that earlier this year, UNICEF started reaching out to the private sector, meeting with businesses and engaging them on the issues of secondary school education and the challenges faced by Malawian children and presented them the idea of a Trust Fund as one way they could support to ensure that their contributions would have some impact.
“We realised there were many businesses supporting various education initiatives and we thought that the Trust Fund would be a way businesses could support education in Malawi, track that support and ensure that their funds are reaching those most in need.”
Through NFB, the Trust now has K3 million in its account, of which K1 million was raised through two golf tournaments NFB organised and K2 million that was donated by FNB at the official launch.
The Trust’s Board of Trustees member Temwani Simwaka said their some of their specific objectives are to administer the Trust by providing scholarships to eligible vulnerable primary school graduates for furtherance of education in public secondary schools and to promote investments of moneys in the Trust Fund for the purpose of making the Trust to be, and remain, sustainable.
“The Trust Fund is unique because of the collaboration between the government, UNICEF, the private sector and non-governmental organization who are joined together for a unified cause.
“International evidence indicates that keeping girls in school positively impacts their life trajectory and benefits the well-being of the next generation. Malawi has made progress in increasing overall enrollment rates especially in primary school but starting from upper primary to secondary levels adolescent girls are more likely to drop out of school than their male counterparts with pregnancy, early marriage, and school fees frequently cited as the main reasons.
“For any country to progress, it needs to invest in education. Evidence suggests that educating girls and women is a particularly smart investment as benefits are more far-reaching not only for the individual but for the country as well.
“World Bank reports suggest that an additional year of schooling for girls approximately results in almost a 12% increase in wages. One study suggested that the failure to educate girls to the same standard as boys cost developing countries $92 billion a year.
“Building on this analysis, a dollar invested in an additional year of schooling, particularly for girls, returns earnings and health benefits of $10 in low-income countries.”
She said Malawi has different partners who have been supporting the education sector with bursaries but more often than not, these efforts have not been coordinated and hence it is difficult to assess the impact of the interventions but has also in some cases led to duplication of efforts.
“The establishment of the Girls Secondary Education Trust Fund will ensure that there is equitable distribution of resources for girls, enhanced accountability for resources and enhanced coordination of effort.
“Government alone cannot address the challenges that adolescent girls face; hence the coordinated efforts of individuals, private sector and local NGOs will be fruitful. As a representative of the board of Trustees, I urge you all to contribute generously for this noble cause and it should not just end with this function but we should be mindful that our adolescents will need our support for many years to come,” she said.