We built a what?

When I imagined the results of the Soft Toys for Education campaign in Malawi, I thought, “Great! I wonder if we built schools! We probably bought books! Maybe we supplied some uniforms!” You know what you get when you put together a building, some books, a teacher and students? You get a building, some books, a teacher and students. But when we layer in UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Schools Framework, ah, then the magic happens.

Viola Mah and Stazi Jacubcova meeting Mchuchu primary students - by Jennifer Huang
Viola Mah and Stazi Jacubcova meeting Mchuchu primary students - by Jennifer Huang

There are over a dozen specific characteristics of a Child-Friendly School (CFS). Mchuchu Primary School near Lilongwe, Malawi is one of the schools supported by UNICEF’s Schools for Africa program with a full CFS package. One of the highlights of our tour was the brick outbuildings which were Mchuchu Primary’s well-maintained latrines. Because proper latrines and hand-washing facilities promote physical health (CFS point 9) so that learners do not miss school. Plus, segregated latrines acknowledge that girls also attend school and must be provided for (CFS point 4). And menstruating girls are less likely to miss school or drop out if the school has private facilities (CFS point 4).

Two Mchuchu primary students using the school's hand washing taps - by Natasa Njegovan
Two Mchuchu primary students using the school's hand washing taps - by Natasa Njegovan

Beyond the classroom, teacher and books, the whole community plays a part in educating a child. Mchuchu Primary’s Parent-Teacher Association collaborates to be family-focused (CFS point 12). Additionally, the school has the input of a Mother Group: 10 women nominated from surrounding villages to advise girls especially on remaining in or returning to the schooling system (CFS point 2). These women act as the eyes, ears, voice of the school in the village, and represent their village when they meet at the school. It is a community partnership focused on the well-being of the children (CFS point 13).

Listen to your elders - Mchuchu Mother's group and PTA members await us - by Viola Mah
Listen to your elders - Mchuchu Mother's group and PTA members await us - by Viola Mah

The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child. I’m learning that it takes so much more to educate that child.

Nseba a young Malawian - by Viola Mah
Nseba a young Malawian - by Viola Mah

 

English
    Viola May Mah