The start of a new year is always a busy time for AGE Africa scholars and program team alike. The start of a new school year indicates the start of a new term in Malawi secondary schools, which, for our girls, means a new classes and new opportunities to strive for success in their academic, leadership and extracurricular areas. For the program team, it means a bit of chaos as we organize for the new term, and it also means the start of this blog. Look here in the future for updates from Malawi!
All of our girls, including our new students, look forward to the start of term with AGE Africa because it signifies the start of their new grocery packages. Grocery packages are part of our comprehensive approach to scholarships, and part of our attempt to eliminate barriers to girls’ education. For example, our grocery package covers the most basic school supplies students need to succeed, such as papers and pens. However, it also includes items that are less obvious necessities to cover some of the hidden costs of school attendance.
One important part of the package is their term supply of sanitary pads. In many African countries, Malawi included, girls are forced to miss school because they lack sanitary pads, or are forced to get creative with the things they use as substitute. These substitutes range from old fabric, to grass, but are alike in many aren’t sanitary and could cause the girls harm. Another important part of the grocery parcel is sugar, which is often mixed with water and consumed for breakfast, just to supplement their calorie intake.
They also receive toiletries such as soap, glycerin, and toothpaste, which help both with their hygiene and with their confidence. Hygiene is important to leading a healthy daily life, but it is the confidence that is key in the classroom. This confidence is what helps them to participate in class discussions, previously dominated by their male classmates. This confidence is what allows them to be assertive and claim their turn with scarce classroom supplies, like books and desks. Eventually, as our girl’s complete secondary school, pass their MSCE and go on to the next stage of their lives, good hygiene will be just one part of the confidence that allows them to self-advocate for their life goals. It’s all part of the package!