Do you know that the future of young people in Malawi is determined by how well they score on this one test?
In Malawi, many secondary students are forced to rely on the test score of the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) Examination in order to apply for jobs, college, and even business loans. Worse, students can technically graduate from high school without achieving a passing score on the MSCE exam. This means that a high school graduate without a passing MSCE will be out of options for a high-paying job, a loan for owning their own business, and higher education to elevate their family out of poverty.
A few weeks ago, we covered the Youth Bubble in another blog post. We suggest reading it first, if you haven’t already, to provide context for the following story. This week, we’re sharing a story that illustrates the dire need for change in the way young people without resources, such as those from rural areas like our partner school, are facing a challenging future.
Chikondi is a Story Time Sponsored student who graduated high school this past June. She lives with her mother and two siblings at home, and her favorite subjects in school are English, biology, and math. Her parents want her to be an independent person by completing her education. After performing well on exams, she wants to attend college to become a nurse. Her motivation for being a nurse is that she wants to help people who are in need within her community. To stay focused on her goals and dreams, she looks up to her friend/mentor (unnamed), who is a also nurse.
Chikondi graduated from high school, but she did not pass the government exams.
The teachers at Nsondole, A.K.A. Chikondi’s high school, have noticed that this graduating class was different from the rest. They tell us that Story Time seniors this year were helpful, attentive to lessons, and generous to their peers. “‘It’s strange’, they tell me,” said Zikani Kaunda, Vice President of Story Time and general head of operations in Malawi.
Think of the MSCE as similar to the ACT in the United States.
Malawian high school seniors (known as Form 4 students) sit for the MSCE in June or July, after graduation. Chikondi was able to graduate high school, yet she was unable to earn a passing grade on the MSCE, and she did not find out about it until after she had graduated.
Resources are scarce, so repeating Senior year is not very common, despite the importance of the MSCE for Malawian graduates. Without enrollment in school, it is possible to take the MSCE, and materials and tutoring to improve your score are nearly impossible to access.
Chikondi went to the headteacher at the school to ask to repeat her Senior year, in order to retake the MSCE. She was told no. . The headteacher was firm. He said, You have already had your chance, you must allow others to have their education.
Chikondi came back to Story Time to ask us to advocate for her. Her dreams of attending college and becoming a nurse would not become a reality without a passing MSCE. To the government and other institutions, it would appear as though she had no proof of her education. Zikani said, “We had resistance to teachers allowing girls to come back.”
Story Time advocated for Chikondi, and the headteacher at last accepted her. Chikondi is enrolled once again, and is studying even harder for her second chance at her dreams.
If Chikondi’s story inspired you, please consider donating to our Advanced Sponsorship Project through the Every Bit Counts campaign. You will provide comprehensive support to struggling students in testing grades, allowing them to do their best. The ASP lifts up brilliant students in immediate danger of dropping out to complete their high school education and have a chance at changing their futures.