AGE Africa’s Executive Director, Concepcion Gaxiola, with AGE Africa scholars.

As we move into spring, schools in Malawi are wrapping up their second trimester. For many girls, this will be the last break of their time in secondary school. Some will go home and become child brides. (One in every two girls becomes a child bride in Malawi.) Others will go home to study for final exams that will decide if they will be in the 6% of women with a high school diploma in Malawi. These girls know the odds are stacked against them, yet when the next term starts, many will continue to make the effort to trek a daunting 10 kilometers (or more!) each way every day just to get an education.

In my recent trip to Malawi, I met with several of our determined scholars. I asked what motivated them to walk such long distances for school and work so hard to defy the jarring statistics they are up against. The story was the same: each girl knew the value of her education and how it would not only benefit her future but also how it would benefit her family and her community. One scholar I spoke to aspires to be a doctor so she can come back to her village to help the sick. Another has her sights set on becoming a teacher and an example to the next generation of girls that follow her. Despite their circumstance, their vision of the future was clear and motivated by service to their community.
It takes a village to raise a child—a phrase we hear over and over—and this village mentality is clearly evident in the goals of our AGE Africa scholars. It’s also reflected in the community support many of the scholars receive, not only from the AGE Africa team and our supporters, but also from parents, family members, and community leaders.
Next week, schools will welcome back scholars for the start of the third trimester. For those girls that don’t return to school, AGE Africa staff will make home visits and speak with parents and community leaders to encourage the girls to come back. These girls—and many girls like the ones I spoke to and the ones we help stay in school—are what motivate me and the team to continue to find ways to provide scholarships and quality programming for girls who would otherwise be part of the 94% of women who do not finish school in Malawi.
At AGE Africa, we know that together we can change a girl, a community, and a nation.