I was very disappointed with what I saw the other day in the bush along the road by the Lilongwe bus stop. I saw three girls changing out of their school uniforms and putting on their everyday clothes. I asked myself why these girls were doing that outside, on the side of a busy road, instead of somewhere private. I wasn’t the only one; other passersby were also surprised to see that sort of behavior. After the girls finished changing their clothes, they put their uniforms in the school bags they were carrying. I wanted to approach them, but I was in a hurry.
Encountering these three girls made me think back to my teenage years, when I had done similar things. I remember how my friend and I would skip class and go for long walks together. After our classes were over, we would go home and pretend that we had been at school all day. As a result of such behavior, I didn’t do so well in my studies in primary school. I struggled, and I wouldn’t want any child to go through that. When I see teenagers messing around, it always gives me a bad feeling.
What’s more, I had felt uncomfortable seeing young girls do something they were supposed to do at home. On the following weekend, I returned home from the Salima District. On my way, I saw one of the girls and stopped her. I greeted her, but she responded evasively. I asked her about what I had seen two days ago. I asked her nicely, but she pretended not to be one of the girls I had seen. When I insisted, she told me the truth about what was going on in the bush.
The girl told me that they had been on their way to a party where they couldn’t wear their school uniforms. This was shocking to me. I could not imagine that these young girls had permission from their parents to knock off school and attend a party. I asked her if their parents knew that they carried spare clothes in their bags, and she told me that their parents had no idea. I told her that I was disappointed in her. She was beautiful, and she was playing around with her future if she and her friends kept doing what there were doing.
She promised me that she would never do it again, and she would tell her friends not to either. I told her that the community was relying on them. They were still young and had the potential to transform the community for the better, if only they stopped behaving in a way that brought shame to us all. Ever since that day, the girls have not attended any house parties without their parents’ permission, nor have they knocked off school before time. I wish the young girls in my community would avoid immoral behavior; their parents expect them to be good children.
I saw one of the girls again, but this time it wasn’t the one I saw on my way back from the Salima District. I asked her how she was doing, and she immediately thanked me for the advice I had given her friend, which had been relayed to her. I was not expecting that for an answer; I thought she might be too shy to open up to me. She told me that they were doing well in their studies—they were all in the top five students of their class. These girls’ experience shows that positive change is possible. In life, if you embrace challenges with an open heart, you will be rewarded.
27 March, 2023