After a tiring, busy and emotional week travelling in Malawi, it was time for our final visit to a primary school that UNICEF classes as ‘child-friendly’. The school was just that too! It has been provided with UNICEF’s basic Schools for Africa programme packages, including 10 classrooms, 10 toilet blocks, 3 teacher accommodation houses as well as technical support.
The school was started in 1934 and now has an incredible 4,888 learners who come from 6 big towns in the Blantyre district!! This has increased dramatically from 4,254 learners in the year 2000. The high population growth of Malawi means there are always more and more pupils!
Before the help of UNICEF, the school had just 14 classrooms, yet with 30 full classes, many lessons had to take place under trees (and we couldn’t see many trees in the grounds!). However, UNICEF built 5 new classroom blocks (10 classrooms) so the school now has 24 classrooms. Furthermore, to tackle the problem of insufficient classrooms, the school has adopted a rota system so half the learners come mornings and half in the afternoon. This way everyone learns efficiently in the comfort of a classroom! Additionally, this rota system is alternated every week as the school noticed that children who attended in the afternoon were always more tired due to helping at home throughout the morning.
There are 86 teachers (9 male, 72 female). The shortage of male teachers can be seen as problematic as boys can’t always relate to a female teacher the same way.
Last year, many learners went on to secondary education and 83% passed their standard 8 exams. These high success rates make the school ever more popular and it’s great for the staff to see all their hard work’s paying off!
The Malawi government does fund the school as part of the budget. However, this is not a great amount. £1,200 for the year works out at just 24p per child! Plus, this budget also has to cover expenses for management, vulnerable children, etc. This means it’s very challenging deciding where the money goes and prioritising.
The vulnerable children who attend the school cause concern to the many teachers, so a ‘1 Kwatcha club’ was introduced. Every day, every teacher puts 1 Kwatcha aside to go towards helping these children at the end of the year. With 86 teachers, this amounts to 31,390 Kwatcha a year, or around £60. Last year they supported 50 children, buying soap, pens, books, etc, to provide items they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.
With future fundraising from initiatives like our Soft Toys for Education campaign, UNICEF hope to supply desks for the classrooms, for a better learning environment.
After over an hour of interacting with the children, getting high-fived, hand-shaken and hugged by 4,888 lively learners was certainly a little overwhelming! It was once again heart-warming to see the enthusiasm for school in Malawi and how the children here are benefitting from their new classrooms! It was a joyous end to the visit and was the icing on the cake for a truly life changing week.