Join My Village has achieved an important new milestone: After more than five years of helping students complete secondary school in rural Malawi, we have a strong group of graduates who can serve as role models to younger students. Previously, the program hired accomplished local women to mentor girls in rural secondary schools. These women along with the teachers who lived in homes provided by Join My Village would meet with primary school students and help them learn about career opportunities and the importance of staying in school – a critical perspective that can be lacking in remote rural areas where options may otherwise seem limited to early marriage and subsistence farming.
Recently, we invited 22 young women who attended school thanks to Join My Village and are now attending different colleges and universities to come back and share their experiences with younger girls in their communities.
“I am very happy and proud to be here after a long time. I have shared my personal experience as a student here and also as a young woman who grew within the same environment as them,” Jenifer told me.
Loveness Gausi encouraged girls to concentrate on their studies rather than thinking about problems at home. “I am telling the girls I have always mentored that in life – especially village life – one has to be visionary and practical. Join My Village sponsored me because I was in school but if I chose to drop out because of the challenges I faced, then would I be pursuing a Teacher’s training course today?” Loveness wondered aloud before reminding the girls to remain in class and try to move beyond their challenges in order to succeed.
The students listened intently as Loveness shared her story: she grew up in the home of her brother, who was unemployed, and saw the many hardships he faced. But she was quick to say that while she made peace with her brother’s situation she still planned for her own future and vowed to work hard in order to be employed one day.
Another success story was shared by Charity Bazale. Jenifer’s best friend, Charity was dressed in her professional uniform as she is pursuing a Certificate in community Midwifery at Nkhoma University. Charity discussed her conduct while at school and her attitude towards teachers. “My message was quite straight to everyone. I told them that if they want to be like me, then they have to avoid naughty behaviours towards teachers because what they are doing now is for their own benefit,” explained Charity. Charity’s message was centred on teacher-student relationship and also students conduct towards each other. “When I was here we used to dance traditional dances while friends were busy studying. When our teacher cautioned us about this, we immediately changed – and that’s why you see me in this uniform today,” she said.
It was a touching role modelling session that not only reminded these young women of their primary and secondary school days but also gave hope and courage to the mentees that it is possible for them too to make it to different levels.