By Angella Phiri
Due to financial constraints, Anna Ndipo, 20, from Chisangwi Village in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Kasumbu in Dedza district dropped out of school when she was in Standard Three.
By the time she left school, Ndipo could not read or write, an experience she recalls was embarrassing.
“It was hard for me to read a simple text on the phone. I had to use my little brother to read for me and knowing that in reality I had to be his role model, I felt ashamed,” she says.
Just like most girls in her area, she got married at a tender age and is now a mother of one but her husband left for South Africa in search of greener pastures.
“I now live with my parents,” she explains: “When I first moved in, life was tough but now things are beginning to work out for the better.”
Ndipo and her parents own a hawker where various items are sold and they have managed to buy pigs from the proceeds of the shop business.
The shop which has existed since 2019, currently makes a monthly profit of about K20 000, up from K5 000 in the past.
Ndipo attributes her current change in lifestyle to the Integrated Adult Education (IAE) for Entrepreneurship pilot project funded by GIZ Malawi and the European Union and being implemented by the Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education (CYECE) in partnership with DVV International in Dedza and Lilongwe districts.
The IAE integrates business and entrepreneurship skills and knowledge with the acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills with the aim of helping local traders to improve their businesses and livelihoods.
She says through the programme, writing and reading is no longer an issue and she is now able to manage her business.
Narrates Ndipo: “At first, I didn’t know how to add and subtract money. I had no saving culture in me. Every penny that I sold, I ended up misusing it without thinking of other ways to expand the business.”
Ndipo dreams of going further with her business venture as she can no longer go back to school full time.
“I would like to grow my business and be able to support my parents and siblings. If I didn’t go far with my education, I should not let my siblings suffer too. I would like to see them through college,” she explains”
Angella John from the same T/A Kasumbu area who dropped out of school when she was in Standard Two, and a beneficiary of the project, concurs with Ndipo citing that her shop has also improved ever since she started learning on how to make more gains from her business.
She explains: “I now document everything that I sell. This has helped me to know when I am making profits or losses. So far, I have observed that my profits are more than before.”
She says through selling maize and legumes aside from groceries, the shop has made a name in the village and a lot of people now come to buy from her.
“Discipline is paramount when it comes to a successful business. I have learnt to treat my customers well regardless of their status and age,” she adds.
Group village head Chisangwi says most of the beneficiaries did not go far with school due to various reasons and the coming in of the project has really helped them to know how to read and write.
He says: “The people in this area are so dedicated when it comes to small scale businesses. It was hard for them to make profits because they could not read or write.
According to the fifth Integrated Health Survey (IHS5) 2020 report the literacy rate for the population aged 15 years and above in Malawi is at 75.5 percent with males leading at 83.0 percent, and females at 68.8 percent.
It also indicates that overall, 13.2 percent of the population aged 15 years and above in Malawi are reported to have never attended school.
Demographically about 18 percent of females never attended school compared to 8.3 percent of males.
The results also show that 50.4 percent of the population aged 15 years and above that never attended school reported lack of money as the main reason followed by 22.2 percent who reported that their parents did not allow them to attend school.
DVV International regional director for Southern Africa David Harrington says the programme inspires participants to become role models in their communities by demonstrating good qualities of an entrepreneur when doing their businesses.
He says: “The programme also offers participants the opportunity to assess themselves, to see if they can run a successful business and what skills and competencies they need to improve.
“This is a rare opportunity for IAE programme beneficiaries, who are already running small businesses, to improve their entrepreneurial skills and knowledge as many people often venture into businesses without having the necessary entrepreneurial competencies.”
Youth rights activist Fred Nyondo applauds the IAE programme saying it has brought back hope to the hopeless especially the youth and that the knowledge gained will help them to grow their businesses thereby contributing to national development.
In her remarks, CYECE project coordinator Prisca Chakholoma says the project has created demand for IAE in the communities it is being implemented.
“Literacy levels have registered improvements and we now have a lot of people interested in adult literacy, a development we believe is going to yield positive results if all of them are incorporated in the programme,” she says.
(This article was originally published by Nation Publications Limited in Malawi: https://www.mwnation.com/pen-paper-profits/)