Lihan Nquiliwa, is a sixteen-year-old Form Four student at Kanjuchi Community Day Secondary School in Mzimba. She was drained by the burden that it was to walk an hour from her home to school and therefore, her alongside her friends rented rooms in a ‘brothel’ where sex workers operated. As you would imagine, these are not the ideal living conditions suitable for people who are in school pursuing their certificates. Lihan and her friends knew that they would face obstacles by living in the sex den, however, they had no choice if they wanted to pursue their secondary school education.
Lihan reiterated how noisy the sex den and new home was. They had to endure the thumping music 24/7, exasperating karaoke and the infuriating dialogues that would seep through the cervices of the walls. The clients would drag their clients to the bed or and have arguments about payments and services.
Despite wanting to pursue a career in nursing, the clients were adamant to change Lihan and her friends’ minds. This is where the power of restraint came in. The clients would flash their cash at the students while simultaneously undermining their school work in order to serve as a form of entrapment. One of her classmates who also took on residence in the sex haven; AlinafeChisale, attested that the clients urged them to stop school and start entertaining men for their basic needs to be met. Some students have fallen for these traps and ended up pregnant with men who dumped them and denied the children after they stripped the girls of their youth and innocence. 18-year-old Alinafe spoke about how she distinctly remembers some of her classmates skipping their classes as well as actively not studying to sell their bodies, smoke, and drink alcohol at KanjuchiTrading Centre. What can we expect from students who have been socialized in a brothel with sex workers as their role models? We cannot blame the students for they do not know any better; they couldn’t have done any better. The system should be able to protect their students and provide suitable living conditions in order to avoid such ordeals.
We can only be grateful that Lihan and Alinafe and some other students didn’t fall for the trap and ensure we keep girls out of these situations for the upcoming future. This can be done by construction of hostels, like that erected by Tideco Community-Based Organisation with support from ActionAid Malawi, where Lihan and Alinafe moved to. The introduction of such amenities has led to the Head Master of Kanjuchi Community Day Secondary school to conclude that “The hostel has given the girls a safe space close to their classrooms. They no longer struggle to study as was the case in the tiny rooms which used to take 10 people instead of one or two. They have more room, beds, safe water, electricity and toilets.” He stated that the “girls are no longer at risk of skipping studies or quitting school due to sexual temptations as was the case in dilapidated self-boarding structures where no one was looking after them.”
This situation needs to be eradicated for even in the last academic year, 10 girls were subjected to this atrocity. However, the head teacher has declared that “Thanks to the hostel, we keep track of the girls, what they are doing and who they are meeting”. It is now the responsibility of The National Education Policy to ensure that no student walks over five kilometers to get to class. To ensure this, Minister of Education Agnes NyaLonjesays the government will continue to work closely with its partners to ensure schools have facilities girls need to excel and achieve their dreams. We hope Minister Agnes NyaLonjefollows through with her work and saves the future of our girls.