CARE: Education: The Journey You Cannot Walk Alone

Memory Nyirenda preparing for the day's lesson at her desk.

The wind is blowing dust and leaves while birds whistle and sing songs of hope that soon, the rains will be falling. The farmers are busy preparing their gardens while Memory Nyirenda, a 30-year-old female teacher and assistant deputy headmaster, is getting ready to go to school to prepare the minds of the future leaders at Santhe Primary school. Santhe is located in the southern part of Kasungu, a region in Malawi in which many women are illiterate and the school dropout rate is high.

“In this area, it was all about tobacco, and education was not regarded as anything. Girls would prefer to get married to tobacco tenants than go to school and get educated, but now things are changing. Tobacco is no longer fetching good prices in the market, and everybody is looking for ways to survive,” Memory explained before drafting a standard eight mathematics exercise for her students.

One of the ways in which CARE supports teachers like Memory is by building secure houses for female teachers so that they can live near the school. She described her experience moving into a house built by CARE, saying, “I felt honored and my confidence is now boosted each and every day. I feel empowered as a woman, and I must also work to empower young girls.”

Ever since moving into the house, Memory has enjoyed peace of mind. “As you can see, I am living in a good house with good security,” she said. “It is well floored and the place is quiet. As a teacher, you need rest.”

“My message to the girls that I mentor is…” she paused. “I am a role model, I am their best friend and I am their teacher. I always mention to them that on this journey of getting educated, they cannot walk alone. They need good people who are passionate about education and willing to help unconditionally – people who care and will put in the effort to build school blocks and female teachers’ houses, give full scholarships to the girls and even assist their mothers with VSLAs to empower them,” she said confidently.

CARE’s education programs go beyond traditional schooling; they also teach women and girls how to sew sanitation pads. Memory learned this skill from CARE hand explained, “I have been using the pads and I use the money meant for it to assist needy students. I teach girls how to sew them. It works as magic; it is simple, convenient, cheap and durable,” she explained.

“I do not regret my dream of becoming a teacher. I longed to become one, and now, I am one. My dream now is to see more girls from rural Santhe making it big, especially in the careers that are dominated by males,” Memory said, smiling.

Photo Credit: 
Madalitso Banda / CARE