Parents and guardians from Sub-Traditional Authority (ST/A) Chiunda and Traditional Authority Chowe in Mangochi have said poverty is the leading cause of school dropout among girls in the district.
The observation comes after two girls selected to start Form One at Mbombwe Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) decided to leave school after fellow students mocked them for their "shabby dressing".
This followed the withdrawal of 19 girls at Chimesya Primary School in the 2018/19 academic year due to their parents and guardians failure to support them. Out of the 19 girls, nine got pregnant while 10 entered into child marriages.
The developments came to light on Wednesday at Mbombwe Primary School when Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) held a district protection committee meeting with various stakeholders including community members.
In an interview, an MRCS volunteer Emily Kaunda said most girls in the area are at risk of dropping out of school.
"I am very worried that most girls, despite willingness to proceed with their education, are failing to do so because of poverty. This is forcing them to drop out of school and rush into child marriages," she said.
On his part, the area's assistant education coordinator Titus Kulinji, while acknowledging poverty as the leading cause of school dropout, blamed parents and guardians for conniving with chiefs to sanction child marriages.
In her remarks, MRCS district project officer Chisomo Kamwendo urged chiefs to strengthen their by-laws to ensure promotion of girls' education, saying this will help her organisation to build community resilience.