After seeing some very nice UNICEF projects, this morning we started by visiting a non-childfriendly school. It’s the last day of our official fieldtrip and I didn’t know what to expect.
The headmaster told us about the history of the Nthulo Primary School in Thyolo. It was founded in 1928. At this moment there are 1759 students who get educated at this school. They get taught by only 23 teachers. You do the math. Sometimes the school is so full that classes take place under the tree. Today only one class was taken place outside, in the building that in an ideal world should be used as a dining area.
I got called over by Michael Banda, the Education specialist of UNICEF Malawi. “Please do something for me,” He asked. “Go and walk around that class. Try to listen to the sounds that the kids make every couple of minutes.” Of course I did what he’d asked me. As I walked around, it hit me after two minutes. The kids were coughing all the time. “This is one of the differences between a childfriendly and a non-childfriendly school,” Michael told me. What struck me the most was the fact that at the start of the tour I was thinking: “It’s nice to be able to sit outside and learn. What’s the big fuzz about.”
Without words Michael had shown me the challenges that a non-childfriendly school has. Limited teachers, no benches to sit in so the kids sit at the ground, wind, no learning materials and especially lots and lots of dust. Before a child can start to learn, he has to overcome so many boundaries. And with all these challenges, the kids are so very happy, friendly and motivated.
After a break enjoying the lovely nature of Malawi we visited Thyolo Youth Action Centre and a daycare centre. This centre runs a Youth Centre Programme that provides youth and children space to participate in various programmes that affect them in having a hopeful future. I was very proud and surprised to hear that the sportfields built next to the centre are completely financed with the money collected by the Soft Toys Campaign. It’s amazing to see what we can reach by running a very successful yearly good cause campaign.
One of the most important programmes running in this centre is the “Go Girls” programme. It provides girls with awareness about HIV /Aids, their rights, their needs, relationships with family and friends and their role in the community.