Ex-Falkirk High teacher’s Kiltwalk for educational charity formed in gran's honour
A Falkirk woman is taking on a walking challenge in honour of her grandmother whose legacy has helped to pave the way for girls and young women in Malawi to receive an education.
Ex-Falkirk High School teacher Mariot Dallas, 64, and her son, Tom, have signed up for the 16.5-mile-long Mighty Stride version of The Kiltwalk in Glasgow on Sunday, September 26.
The duo are doing so to raise money for the Mamie Martin Fund (MMF), founded in 1993 by Mariot’s parents, Margaret and John Sinclair, in memory of her mother, Mamie, a teacher who worked to empower women through education in the African country in the 1920s.
Brought up in Tarbet in Argyll and Bute, Mamie set off for Malawi with husband Jack in 1921 to start a new life.
She gave birth to daughter Margaret six years later, however, sadly died in childbirth in 1928 while pregnant with a baby boy.
Margaret returned to Scotland as an adult, but a trip back to Malawi with her husband, as well as a discussion with friends who lived there, sparked her desire to launch the MMF.
The charity is now managed by a board of trustees in Scotland who are responsible for the governance and strategy of the volunteer-led organisation.
The MMF helps girls in secondary education in Malawi through a partnership with the Synod of Livingstonia and has so far supported more than 650 youngsters.
Since January, when the current school year started, the organisation has paid the fees of 139 girls across six schools, including seven pupils at a school for deaf children in Embangweni.
One of the establishments it helps is a community day secondary school run by the Malawian Government in a hugely deprived area of Mzuzu.
Amid the pandemic, MMF volunteers have also assisted schools with hand-washing facilities, supplied face masks and covered the cost of an increased number of trips to and from boarding schools.
Mariot, the MMF’s co-convenor and trustee, is immensely proud of the role her grandmother played in ensuring young women have access to classrooms so they can learn vital lessons about the modern world.
She said: “When my granny went to Africa she realised women were getting a raw deal and was quite keen girls should get a chance to go to school as well as boys.
“Both of my grandparents wrote letters home every week and we still have these. I know, from her letters and diaries written in Malawi, that she was passionate about girls getting access to education.
“From time to time we do readings and put them out as publicity. They make good listening because she was a very vivid writer.
“The big thing for us is that less than 100 years ago she was saying girls need to go to school and women need to be educated. It’s still a big issue.
“There’s a good programme about the climate emergency and the education of girls, because the choices girls who go through secondary school make as adults are influenced by their education.
“They probably won’t have as many children, will be engaged in the democratic process and their children are likelier to go to school and make healthier choices.
“The dark side is, if children don’t get educated, they have a very early marriage – girls as young as their early teens can get pregnant in Malawi.
“There is evidence now that supporting girls in secondary school transforms lives, challenges poverty and inequality and even has a positive impact on climate change as more women use their vote and become politically active.
“That’s a great motivation as I walk.
"The 16.5-mile walk is quite a challenge but I’m enjoying the training and have had lots of encouragement and support from friends and family.”
Mariot concedes she’s not the sportiest, yet the knowledge that proceeds from her Kiltwalk efforts will benefit those less fortunate than herself is all the motivation she needs.
The former University of Glasgow student, who was raised in Stirling, is looking forward to returning to her own educational roots as the Mighty Stride will take her along the Clyde to Dumbarton, via various places she recalls fondly from her younger years.
So far, Mariot has raised around £200 and, with Malawian boarding school fees costing £350-per-year, she and her son hope to reach the £1000 mark to support as many girls as possible.
The fee for a single school day is £5, while £10 covers the cost of school uniforms for six girls, £30 pays for boarding fees for one girl and £35 would buy sanitary pads for all MMF women.
Mariot said: “We have a good number of women who are in a better position because they’ve been educated and are contributing to their country in a positive way.
“The decision to do The Kiltwalk was a moment of madness. I’m not really sporty but our admin and trustee had purchased registration.
“I walk every day because I have a dog but I’ve never walked 16 miles before, so I just thought I’d do it.
“I just said to the family, ‘Does anyone fancy it?’
“My son, who’s 27, said he would. I’m moving towards £200 just now but I’d like to get at least £500 and I’m hoping Tom will get the same.
“They say the average is six hours so I’m hoping to do it in seven hours and a bit.
“A huge thank you to those who have donated, it’s very encouraging. It’s amazing how far the money will go.
“A small amount of money makes a massive difference.”
Tom added: “It’s great to know that since 1993 the Mamie Martin Fund has been supporting girls through secondary school in Malawi.
“My mum says she can keep walking as long as she has someone to talk to, and I’m sure we can find things to talk about as we walk along the Clyde.”