In October last year three pioneering sisters started a new mission in Malawi. Here Sr. Rosemary Ng’andu, one of the pioneers, tells us how they are getting on…
“Since our coming to Malawi I have taken an interest in the welfare of the youth of Konzalendo because they lack fatherly support. In this part of Malawi, most of the women have been abandoned by their husbands. This is a matrilineal society; therefore it’s the women who marry the men. When a man marries a woman, he leaves his home and comes to build a house in the woman’s village. The children born in this society belong to the woman. When a man gets tired of his wife, he just picks up his belongings and goes off either back to his home or to get married to another woman and leaves the children to be looked after by his first wife.
In this society, the women are the bread winners in the family. They work very hard in the fields in order to cater for the shelter, clothing and feeding of their children. For instance, if a woman has eight daughters, when they get married, all the daughters will build houses near their mother’s home. And if their daughter’s husbands decide to leave them, which happens quite often, all the children are left for the women; and some families have a good number of children, for example, one of our parishioners gave birth to seventeen children, and her first born who is only 39 years old has already got eleven children. It’s quite possible that she will have more children since she is still at child-bearing age.
Against this background, the society has a big population of young people who, as stated earlier, lack fatherly support. A lot of these boys and girls stop school quite early especially the girls who are forced into early marriages, since they have nothing else to do. Some of the youth have attained standard eight which is the last year in primary school, while others have attained their form four which is the secondary school leaving certificate. However, they do not have an opportunity to further their education into higher institutions because most single parents cannot afford the school fees. Hence they have the option of early marriage or roaming the street.
Here in Konzalendo, we have a primary school with an enrolment of 1,800 pupils against 15 teachers. The classrooms are very congested with 200 pupils in some of the classes, without desks and seats. Most of the pupils sit on the ground with books in their hands and it is very difficult for the teachers to teach under these conditions.
The national language is Chichewa which is spoken in all institutions and schools. Since our arrival at Konzalendo, the youth have been encouraged to speak in English and the response has been positive. To keep the youth busy, we started the Legion of Mary. The members also formed a drama group in the parish. They had a debate and sang songs in the English language for the first time.
Our mission in Konzalendo is great but most challenging in many ways. You are all welcome to our little grey home on Konzalendo hill. Tips on travelling to Malawi – do not plan your journey for January, February or March; if you do you may not reach us and if you do reach us, you may not get out of Konzalendo, because of heavy rains which makes the roads impassable. If you coming from Venezuela or Nigeria do not come in June or July, because, you may perish from the cold!!”
Sr Maria Shawa with parishioners
Sr Mary Balogun and Sr Rosemary with the Youth Choir