It only takes her about 15 minutes to walk from her village, Sanyama to Katelera primary school. She is 15 years and is in standard seven. She has one child who is twenty three months old. The child is taken care by her grandmother because both her parents died when she was less than ten years, leaving five children.
It all started because of peer pressure. “All my friends had boyfriends and I had no option but follow what they were doing”, she explains. Never did she know that this will make her a teen mother. Alinafe found a boyfriend, Limbikani who is a business person at a trading centre close to her school. Unfortunately, Alinafe fell pregnant. She dropped out of school and they both proceeded to stay together as a family. Her family life was no better at all because she used to sleep hungry and received no care and support from her husband. “Limbikani used to come home very late; we had no food to eat and was doing nothing to support me and the child; we used to fight almost every day”, she narrates.
After several months of suffering, Alinafe was identified by the Katelera primary school mother group as a girl who is not supposed to be in marriage but in school. They thought she still had potential to shape her life by going back to school. She was approached and the marriage was nullified and she returned to school. She is now in standard seven, just one year before she completes primary education. Her return to class has had few challenges but she feels happy to be back. “Since I came back to school, there has been no bullying and the teachers have been very supportive” she explains. She was enrolled in the Malawi Girl Guide Association where she was taught to be strong and resilient towards the challenges she will be facing as a girl.
Engagement with Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister, Laila Bokhari
During the visit of Laila Bokhari, the Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister, Alinafe interacted with her and explained her story. She stood as an example of so many girls in her community that are back in school and continue to pursue their dreams in her community.
“I have had a boyfriend, I have been pregnant; I have been married and I am now back in school; I have done it all but school is all I want to do now going forward” she explains.
Alinafe dreams of being a teacher some day and help fellow girls realize their dreams too. Despite her standing out and sharing her story, she acknowledges that there are still more girls in her community that are refusing to go back to school and still ridicule her as walks to school every day. She however remains strong and determined to complete school.
Campaign to get teen mothers back to school
Under the UN Joint Programme on Girls education which is financed by the Norwegian Government, UNFPA is strategically supporting vulnerable and marginalized adolescent girls in difficult situations that perpetually face the challenges of early marriages, unwanted pregnancies and HIV infection to remain in school. In addition, UNFPA also provides comprehensive sexuality education session to both in school and out of school girl.
Malawi is one of several sub-Saharan African countries whose education systems are characterized by very high initial enrolments in primary schooling, but high repetition and dropout leading to low completion rates such that less than 25% of girls ever finish primary school. The low retention rate is largely attributed to harmful cultural practices; lack of age-appropriate reproductive health information and services; and lack of knowledge, self- efficacy and utilisation of services which, if made available, could assist in reduction of drop out through pregnancy prevention as well as reduction in HIV/STI transmission.