In Malawi, all children between the ages of five and 13 should actually go to school. At least that’s what the law says. But many people in Malawi are poor and cannot afford to buy school books. Nevertheless, almost every child in Malawi goes to school, according to Unicef. But three out of four children even drop out of primary school.
There are often 100 children in a classroom. It would be like if four school classes had lessons together with us. Sometimes there are no classrooms at all and the children sit outside on the floor. When it rains, there are no classes at all.
Compulsory schooling in Malawi
In Malawi there is actually eight years of compulsory schooling, starting with the primary school. This elementary school is free and books and exercise books should also be provided. At least in theory, in practice the children mostly leave elementary school.
This is followed by the secondary school, the Secondary School. This lasts four years but is chargeable. Those who complete this school receive the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE abbreviated). This is followed by a three-year course that is very expensive. There are universities that are paid for by the state and private universities, which are also very expensive.
Cons for girls
It is often the girls in particular who are disadvantaged and do not finish school. They often have to help their mothers around the house. There are also special home economics lessons in schools. For boys, the focus is on technical or manual training. The subject of hygiene can also be found on the timetable. Many children do not even know how important it can be to wash your hands, especially before you eat.
What is still missing?
The problem in Malawi is also the poorly trained teachers. And there is often a lack of classrooms in which the children can study undisturbed. There are often no toilets in schools. AIDS also has an impact on schools because many teachers die from this disease. In Malawi, every second woman and every fourth man cannot read or write.
71 out of 100 people in Malawi live below the poverty line of $ 1.90 a day. That’s not a lot. Most people live in the country, only 16 out of 100 in cities. Living in the city is much more expensive than in the country. Here, many people mostly take care of themselves and live off what they grow. In the city they need money in order to be able to get the essentials.
Many people live in the country
Nine out of ten people work in agriculture and grow corn. They often work on the tobacco plantations. The tobacco is then sold abroad. Children have to work too. The children either go begging or they have to work on the tobacco plantations.
AIDS orphans in Malawi
One in five children in Malawi is malnourished. 64 out of 1,000 children under five die. The number of children who no longer have parents is also very high. It continues to rise. More than a million children in Malawi grow up without their parents or with only one parent. Among them there are 530,000 orphans whose parents died of AIDS.
Tobacco and children?
Tobacco is unhealthy. Every child knows that. But unfortunately not every adult. That is why tobacco is processed into cigarettes all over the world and there is a particularly large amount of tobacco in Malawi. Most of what Malawi earns from exporting goods it earns from tobacco.
However, it is also not entirely safe for a country’s economy to be dependent on just one product. Malawi ranks fifth among the countries that are important for tobacco cultivation. And Malawi is a pretty small country according to petsinclude.com.
Children toil on the tobacco plantations
And the bad thing about it is not the fact that tobacco is grown and harvested in Malawi, but that a lot of children work on the tobacco plantations. They work like slaves, do not get enough food, have no access to safe drinking water and are not properly paid for their work.
Small tobacco farmers in competition with large companies
The tobacco companies often coordinate with each other. This means that small tobacco farmers can no longer keep up with prices, which also fluctuate strongly here. So they have to reduce their costs again and use children as workers. And the area that is used for tobacco cultivation is missing for important food. And now you definitely can’t eat tobacco.
Nicotine is highly toxic
Tobacco is unhealthy and not only when it is in the cigarette and is smoked. Even before that. The children in Malawi who work as tobacco pickers are exposed to the poison nicotine. The children often work twelve hours a day for no more than a cent an hour. This is what the children’s aid organization Plan International found in a study.
The nicotine in plants is water soluble and human skin absorbs it very easily. So it happens that children are harmed too – without smoking cigarettes. Nothing is known about the long-term effects, but many children on the plantations suffer from headaches, coughs and shortness of breath.
No solution in sight yet
Unfortunately, there is no solution in sight. And, as is so often the case, a ban cannot help completely. That is why it is at least important that the children work less, work with protection, receive a wage for this and can also go to school. Only with a better education do they have the chance to no longer have to ask their children to do this work.
Child labor is prohibited in Malawi, but many families need the money to survive. In Malawi, children from the age of five work in the fields or in the tobacco plantations.