Can you remember how many classmates you had when you went to primary school? Twenty, maybe 25? A lot of attention from the teacher anyhow. In Malawi, the pupil-to-teacher ratio is 75 students for 1 teacher. Most of the time teaching takes place under a tree or on the floor in a dirty classroom, without windows. Can you imagine how much help is needed over here?
Today (Tuesday) was our second day of the IWitness programme in Malawi, and we went to the Kalitsiro Community Based Child Care Centre, the Naotcha Primary School and the Amalika Teachers College. I didn’t know what to expect, an African daycare for orphans. What would they do?
When we arrived it was immediately clear to me. They gave the children a safe base. Thanks to UNICEF and the IKEA Foundation, these children have a sort of classroom, a shelter, latrines, a kitchen and a borehole (a well for water). Every day they get a meal, something to play with and a lot of love. Their biggest challenge was to organise a meal every day, they were struggling with it. It was such a heartbreaker, all these lovely children, sometimes without food. In Holland we are so used to providing the basics for ourselves and our family.
When we got the chance to meet the children, they were in the beginning very shy and we had to win their trust. Once we had won their trust, they were the happiest kids in the world. Just being happy because someone is giving them attention. And that’s universal.
In 2011 UNICEF came to help at the Naotcha Primary School. They constructed five buildings with ten classrooms in total, three teachers’ houses and ten toilets: four for boys, four for girls and two for the staff. They also provide desks in all 24 classrooms and chairs and tables for teachers. Nowadays, 5,376 children can happily go to school without sitting on a cold dirty floor and can go to the toilet (without latrines at schools, the dropout rate increases). The acceptance rate to secondary school is increasing.
These are all amazing facts. And this is all thanks to UNICEF, the staff of the primary school and IKEA. I am so proud, I’m constantly getting shivers.
Because we also wanted to see the quality of education, we went to the Amalika Teachers College. They really are clued in; they see teaching in a holistic way. They’re running the school together because they believe that they can learn more, side by side. When I asked one of the students why he wanted to became a teacher, he told me that he wanted to help his country and the children to lift Malawi up to a higher level. He wanted to become a role model. That is what teaching is about, inspiring your students.