Grace was recently selected to one of Blantyre's top District Boarding schools (Lunzu Secondary School), which deserves a shout out. To have some perspective, only two young people this year were selected to Lunzu from across Joshua's impact areas – more than 40 villages serving around 12,000 children. Grace beat a lot of odds to make it this far and we are going to be with her for the next four years, supporting her to break the bonds that girls across Malawi experience every day of their lives. Bonds like lack of quality education and female role models, a complete lack of knowledge around managing periods and puberty, having enough food to eat, freedom to walk to school without fear of sexual harassment, to name just a few.
Grace lives in Solomoni Village, among a cluster of rural villages 15kms down a dusty and pot-filled road past Blantyre's Chileka airport. Her home is typical of the village – a grass roof that leaks in the rainy season atop of mud brick walls full of potential for collapse at any moment. There is no electricity, people get by with candles and small torches and water is fetched from a borehole (long walk, heavy buckets, hours wasted standing, queuing, waiting). Unlike a lot of her friends, Grace lives with both her parents, who farm and do small piece works to provide for the family. It is backbreaking work and it never produces enough. Across Blantyre and Malawi, this is just peoples daily reality.
Joshua helps young girls like Grace with school fees, uniform, stationery and other essentials. Since 2015, we have been running SMART mentoring alongside sponsorship – an essential component for boosting student confidence and critical engagement with their education. It is not common practice in Malawi for young people to be asked to evaluate themselves, to think about their strengths and weaknesses and map out ways to maximize their opportunity for education. SMART mentoring gives students one-to-one SMART goal setting support. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. Students are also encouraged to study together and join after-school clubs such as Mathematics club, English club and Library club. At boarding school this is particularly encouraged as students have more time for studies, without the stress of walking long distances to school, caring for siblings and doing chores and paid works. We have seen a marked improvement in results and confidence among students since introducing SMART objectives.
Too many times we hear a student say, 'my dream is to become a doctor' and yet they have no real idea of the hurdles they need to overcome to get there and there are so many other obstacles out of their control that they must contend with, even if they themselves do have what it takes. Sadly for most, these ambitions are little more than pipe dreams as the vast majority of students will return to the village, to farming or to other low income work. But at Joshua we do not accept that it has to be like this - so we will invest in Grace and others like her, we will push her from the wings to put in all her effort, so that she can dream big and make it.
To sponsor student education through Joshua, get in touch via email@example.com or visit our website - firstname.lastname@example.org