New Desks, New Schools, New Opportunities

Towera_Mphatso_successBefore the CLEAR Project began in Malawi, the school in the Rumphi District-Mwazisi Zone had a shack shelter that was used as a classroom.

“We used to sit on the floor either on mud or dust, depending on the season” said student Towera. If it rained heavily the classroom structure would leak, she said, so the teacher would ask students to go home.

Excused for the day, they would return home with soiled clothes from sitting on the floor for classroom activities. “We had problems cleaning the clothes every day and our parents could not afford to buy the soap for washing our clothes. Some of our friends could develop coughs and sneezes that did not end, especially in the dry season,” added Towera’s friend Mphatso.

Towera and Mphatso’s teacher Mr. Mhango, added that the school was in bad shape. “We had no proper black board to write on and limited access to new information and modern teaching resources.”

Back at home, children were often asked to help in ferrying, stacking, and grading tobacco leaves to help their parents. The rainy season coincided with peak tobacco leaf picking time, so work would increase, at the same time children’s classroom would be particularly inhabitable due to the leaking classroom.

When the CLEAR Project began, the ECLT project officer met with the chiefs, the school management committee, and the parent teacher association and mobilized them to contribute toward the construction of a new school block and toilets. The CLEAR Project brought in all the materials for construction while community members contributed the sand, quarry, and bricks. Working together, they finished the school and office and provided desks for the children.

“I am so happy now because we sit on desks unlike before. Our black board is so big we can easily see, read, and practice reading with our teacher,” said Towera.

Teachers say the new school has transformed the area and raised the interest of the children in school. Since the CLEAR Project enrolment and readmission has increased from 135 students at the end of the 2011 academic year to 204 students at the end of 2012.

Mphatso said, “Now my dream to become a teacher will be realised because I go to such a beautiful school. Even my friends who were going to the other far away schools now admire me and want to come and start school here as it is closer to our homes.”

Looking ahead, the school now plans to build additional classrooms as the junior school is up to four classes. Community members are seeking to build new bathrooms and create greater access to portable water.