“Let the children go to school “ – CICD travel-team investigating and helping in Malawi!
We are in the very last weeks of this 3 months travel, now we are headed to Zambia, our last destination where we will conclude the travel and finalize the Investigation.In the last two weeks we were in Malawi, more specifically in Ntchisi, a very rural area. We were making our investigation in different households and also helping the DAPP project called “Let the children go to school”.
This project focuses in the children attending school and does it in many different ways. One of the biggest problems in the primary schools is the drop out rate. There are many children that stop going to school for different reasons, one of the biggest and strongest reasons is the fact that most of the kids eat only once or twice a day.
Imagine that you are attending school from 7am to 12.30pm with nothing in your stomach since the 6pm of the day before… What will you think about while you are in school if not the 13pm meal?! How can you focus properly and have the energy to learn, to be in silence, to be in school?! Well, this is a huge reason for the dropout rate so what the project “let the children go to school” is trying to provide a porridge meal for the learners in the morning. But this cannot be done so easily - the community has to be involved. So what the Project does is to provide the community (usually the mothers of the children in school) with seeds and then they grow maize for example. They will then consume it and if there is more than needed they can even sell it. The community takes care of the fields and when the time comes it is the own mothers of the kids making the porridge for all the children in school. This has been proven to reduce the dropout rate and many children come back to school.
We were lucky to participate in the first day of the feeding project in one of the primary schools. We went there and the first thing the head teachers showed us was the fields of maize that they were so proud of and very thankful to DAPP. And then we saw the 2 community members making the porridge and we ended up helping to make it and serve it to the children. When we arrived the school was full of kids, super noisy and energetic and then suddenly after eating the porridge everything was calmer and ready to come back to class and learn.
The project itself also takes care of the installations of the school, helps to build up a classroom or playgrounds, what we also helped with was on the decoration of a classroom. The walls were white when we came in and when we left there were colorful shapes, numbers, music instruments, and the ABC and Chichewa language examples on the walls. In a few hours we made the classroom much more alive!
We also isited some other schools where we always went first to check out the garden farming and then look around the school . The teachers always asked for advice about how to make the primary school better.
These are some of the examples about our actions here in Malawi. During our investigation we could conclude that this area of Malawi is very, very poor. Access to water is not the easiest but it seems there is always one water pump “nearby”. Electricity is super rare and even the ones that can afford electricity cannot totally rely on it cause the blackouts are constant. People cook with charcoal most of the time. Women get married between the 18 and 22 years old and have their first kids around that age too and have an average of 5 children.
What we could see was that the families can usually only have lunch and dinner and no other meal can be provided.
The area where we were there is basically no industry, the families live of farming and live is hard for them, even though they always receive visitors with the warmest smile and by the end of a conversation they even ask us if we want to stay and eat nshima with them.
When we asked what makes them happy the answers are usually the same for all the families: having a good shelter ; good crops(which provide food on the table); clothing; children being able to go to school. Some woman are part of woman’s club but not so many and when the woman are asked “if you only had two children, a boy and a girl, and could only afford to send one to school which one would it be?” most of them answer they would send the girl and that proves that mentalities are changing cause in different conversations what the locals share with us is that usually in a situation like that it is the boys who are chosen to go to school.
The reality of the rural areas is a tough one, the life style is hard and there is a lot of poverty… even though Malawians are extremely friendly and in a time of need they will come and help.
I will conclude withwhat happened to us a few days ago:
We woke up at 4am, we had a bus at 7.30 and some hours driving till the city where we had to catch the bus. It was raining all night and at 4.30 we were leaving the house. The road was muddy and the car after few meters got stuck on the mud. We were 5 pushing the car but it did not move an inch. We tried and tried and tried and nothing. One of us when to get help and after 15 minutes there we 4 men coming to help us pushing the car. Even though it was not easy, we had to spend some time filling the holes on the road with stones and there were2 or 3 people who were going to the fields and stopped to help us filling the up the holes with stones. Then it was the last big push and by then we were 9 people pushing the car and we finally managed to arrive to a “normal road”. It was extremely early in the morning and people just see the situation and think “if it was me I would need help” and they go and help with no questions. Was thanks to the people’s kindness we arrived on time to our bus!
Malawi – “the warm heart of Africa” as they say!