Malawi is a small country of 17 million people in east Africa, and is known as the warm heart of Africa. It is a peaceful country, never having been at war since it came into being in 1964.
In 2014 it was voted one of the Top 10 places to visit in the world; unfortunately, it is also in the Top 10 poorest countries in the world. In fact, according to the World Bank, it is the second poorest country (2016)and 7 in 10 of its people (71%) live on less than £1.35 per day². However, Malawian people can expect to live for 64 years, which is a quite rapid increase from previous years and is higher than many of its neighbours.
Mzuzu is the capital and largest city in northern Malawi, with a population of 130,000 people. It is the commercial centre of the region with several manufacturing industries including coffee and timber. It is the home of Mzuzu University, which gives the city a highly-skilled workforce. The farming region outside the city is densely populated and used for tea, rubber and coffee growing. National Parks and Wildlife Reserves, containing leopards, lions, elephants and hippos, are close by.
As well as the university, Mzuzu boasts some of the best secondary and primary schools in northern Malawi. Katoto Secondary School is in the Katoto area of south Mzuzu. It has 56 teachers and 1000 students whose ages range from 11 to 18 years. School attendance in Mzuzu is higher than the national average and higher than the rural areas around but few children still complete both primary and secondary education. This is why the students at Katoto Secondary School have teamed up with schools in the UK to try and increase the opportunities for all children in their local area to get a complete education. They firstly undertook a research project to find out the main barriers to education here, and the best, most appropriate solutions. These can be found at: https://j8educationalpartnerships.co.uk/research, which is password protected for educational purposes. Please get in touch and ask for the link to access these files.
Increasing Access to Education in Mzuzu
Having found the main barriers to education, and some practical solutions, the students in Mzuzu and in the UK are ready to take action.
The students found that several local organizations are already working to increase access to education, directly and indirectly. For instance:
- Local organizations, such as CHIDESO and JUDITH, encourage more children to go to school. “CHIDESO said that they pay school fees and they buy some resources like school uniforms, books, school bags to needy students and also they have places in their organization where they encourage children to do sport and other activities. JUDITH is also an organization that pays school fees to needy students and they talk to children on the importance of education and encourage them to go to school. “
- “One local chief, Isaac Ngwira Kamchibazi, told us that in his village he has created a policy that if any children are found at home during school time their parents will be commanded to pay money to the chief and also to send their children to school.”
In addition, “the District Education Manager told us that they have already started to raise awareness on encouraging more children to go to school.”
While undertaking their research the students also began to take action. For example:
- they talked directly to parents who don’t send their children to school. They attended meetings of adults and children to persuade them of the importance of education.
- they wrote to the Executive Director of Northern Malawi Education
- they discussed the issue with failing and drop-out students
- they wrote plays demonstrating the benefits of going to school, and
- they wrote plays to persuade children and parents of the importance of school, such as:
If I Would Have Listened
Yesterday I have touched myself
I fooled myself the jobs which I found
Are heavy only
if I would have listened
To work hard in school I would have been better
Place in life, speaking English when asking for jobs, the wise man said
But I didn’t listen
Look at me now, look at me finding little amount of money, being a lazy father
Please work hard in education
Do not let anyone fool you because
You are the leaders of tomorrow.
by Grace Njirenda
Starting a school scholarship scheme
Because poverty is a major reason why children in Mzuzu do not complete their education, the school in partnership with Hutchie pupils have started a scholarship scheme. Application forms were issued and five worthy students selected. Their fees and the cost of their uniforms will be paid until they sit their School Certificate of Education in Form 4.
Raising awareness of albinism
Children with albinism are deterred from going to school in many parts of Malawi for fear of being kidnapped or killed for their body parts. On June 13th (Albinism Awareness Day), some Katoto students wore symbolic white ribbons and did their best to bring attention to this unacceptable practice.