Thinking Future: Keeping Girls in School

ANPPCAN CHILD PROTECTION TRAINING IN MULANJE

A few weeks ago I was very honored to accompany my new friend, Mr. Ken Williams Mhango, founder of the Malawian Chapter of the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), and his team to Mulanje district where we conducted a training on children's rights, causes of early marriage, and HIV/AIDS education with a group of girls at Zimbo CCAP Primary School. This was my first time to see the ANPPCAN-Malawi team in action! I wanted to post about it as soon as we had finished our training trip, but I became slammed with other work and an unruly network connection, hence the delay. But now that I have some time and a well-behaved internet connection, here we go!

The three girls in front in white tops and black skirts are actually secondary school students; ANPPCAN provides them with their basic needs so they can stay in school and not be pressured to drop out or get married. In return, they serve as role models for the younger girls and work hard in school to get good grades! 

The three girls in front in white tops and black skirts are actually secondary school students; ANPPCAN provides them with their basic needs so they can stay in school and not be pressured to drop out or get married. In return, they serve as role models for the younger girls and work hard in school to get good grades! 

ABOUT ANPPCAN

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First, what is ANPPCAN? It is a pan-African network that promotes child rights and child protection (see link above). There are currently over 26 chapters active across Africa, including the one in Blantyre, Malawi, founded by my new friend Ken. From the ANPPCAN website: 

ANPPCAN’s 26 chapters respond to the specific needs of children in their countries by developing appropriate program interventions. The Regional Office implements national and regional interventions on children that include direct program intervention, advocacy on specific issues as well as networking and partnership building on issues affecting children in Africa.

The Malawi Chapter of ANPPCAN specializes in providing targeted training to girls at risk of school drop out, pregnancy, and early marriage, as well as working with parents, teachers, and traditional leaders. They call this the "Thinking Future: Keeping Girls in School Project". They designed a curriculum with an English language teacher-training booklet (pictured here) but the courses can be taught in English or Chichewa, depending on the needs of the students. During this particular training day, we completed lessons on children's rights, causes of school dropout, causes and effects of early marriage, and HIV/AIDS education. Since I am not technically part of the ANPPCAN training team, I just observed and took pictures!  

The training took place in Mulanje district, home to Mount Mulanje, the largest mountain in Malawi. Mulanje is famous both for the mountain, but also for the tea plantations that cover the slopes of the mountain. It is a gorgeous, idyllic area, perfect for pictures. However, while the rolling green hills make life in Mulanje seem beautiful and serene, the reality is actually quite harsh. Tea is one of the most labor intensive crops to maintain. Children often drop out of school to help their families manage the demands of constant tea leaf harvesting. At the school we went to, many kilometers from the highway and surrounded by tea, rates of school dropout are quite high. That is one of the reasons ANPPCAN is working with local partners in Mulanje to provide training in the primary and secondary schools in the area.  

Mt. Mulanje--the highest mountain in Malawi

Mt. Mulanje--the highest mountain in Malawi

Tea-pickers take a break in the shade and wait to weigh their bags

Tea-pickers take a break in the shade and wait to weigh their bags

The tea plantations stretch as far as the eye can see, right up to the edge of the road

The tea plantations stretch as far as the eye can see, right up to the edge of the road

This is one of the only places in the country with the right climate to grow tea. No wonder it was popular with the Brits! 

This is one of the only places in the country with the right climate to grow tea. No wonder it was popular with the Brits! 

THE TRAINING

The name of their program is "Thinking Future: Keeping Girls in School". The focus is on providing girls with more resources and knowledge about their rights, the importance of going to school, and the dangers of school drop out, namely pregnancy and early marriage. Our training took place with a collection of girls ranging from grade 6 through 8 at a primary school connected with the Presbyterian church in Malawi, the CCAP. The training is interactive, involving props, question and answer sessions, and group work. The training was conducted in Chichewa, so I admit that quite a bit of it went over my head! But Ken gave me the English teacher-training booklet to follow along and it was pretty easy to understand what was going on, even through the language barrier. 

As part of the training, each girl is also given a few notebooks and a pen. This is important because school supplies can be very expensive for many families and the girls may be in class with no materials, just sitting quietly with no way to take notes. The notebooks are blank so she can use them for her other classes and the front and back of each notebook cover provides information about children's and especially girls' rights. 

On our way to the school! 

On our way to the school! 

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They call this the "Tree of Education" where they use active learning to work with the girls to understand the benefits of education (branches and leaves), the causes of school dropout (trunk), and the consequences of school dropout (ground). The girls have to identify each and place it on the right area of the tree.

They call this the "Tree of Education" where they use active learning to work with the girls to understand the benefits of education (branches and leaves), the causes of school dropout (trunk), and the consequences of school dropout (ground). The girls have to identify each and place it on the right area of the tree.

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HELP WANTED

The Malawi chapter of ANPPCAN is always looking for interest volunteers to help with their programming! This can range from working in the office on managing the logistics of the NGO, operating the website, or coordinating with donors and fundraising, to going out into the field with the team to do the trainings. And they don't just work with girls either. ANPPCAN-Malawi also works directly with schools--teachers, mothers group, parents, even traditional leaders to provide additional training.

I think this could be an amazing opportunity for an undergraduate looking for real, hands-on experience learning the day-today operations of an NGO/NPO. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to work for an NGO, or start your own NGO, this could be a really amazing learning opportunity! ANPPCAN-Malawi is based out of Blantyre, which is a great city with lots to offer. They are used to helping volunteers find living arrangements and I know they will take good care of any new recruits! You don't have to commit to a long-term stay--from one month to six, even a year, whatever works for you! 

If you want more information about volunteering, just send me an email to my work address: emaiden@nd.edu and I will put you in contact with Ken! 

 

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