Schools in Malawi

Yesterday morning I visited the school where the children of our housekeeper attend. By Malawian standards the school was quite wealthy. Indeed this school is situated in a neighborhood filled with ambassadors, wealthy tobacco families, and other expatriates. What makes it wealthy? There was a school building for starters. All of the windows may have been broken (from balls) and there is no electricity (fusebox was stolen) but these kids do have expansive grounds for playing and a classroom with chalkboards. The upper grades even had desks in their rooms. These kind of luxuries are nonexistent in most schools. Also there were books for the children, and each child had at least a pencil and a workbook to do their exercises in.

But I am getting ahead of myself. When I arrived at the school I was surrounded by at least 50 children all jumping up and down in unison singing "mzungu" which means white person. Mr. Ntolowa, who teaches and tutors our staff's children met me and introduced me to the headmistress. I signed the visitors log and was surprised to see that besides my mother-in-law and sister-in-law who had visited 6 months ago, the only visitors had been delivery people and a couple of parents.
I then went to Mr Ntolowa's first grade class and was greeted by about a hundred 6 year olds who jumped up and said, "Good morning sir, how are you?" They were very excited to have me in their classroom and it was fun to be there.

The students were much like any students at any school in America, expect much better behaved. There were some that were clever and anxious to learn, and some that were distracted, but most were somewhere in the middle. When Mr. Ntolowa asked a question there were dozens of eager hands flapping around for attention. Mr. Ntolowa taught a very creative English lesson. He had a cardboard box with a hole cut out in it to look like a TV. He told the kids he had to turn on the TV so they could watch the story of the farmer and the hare. As he read the story to them he rolled a long sheet of paper across the opening of the box with images he had drawn from the story on it. The kids loved it and comprehended quite a bit as they answered Mr. Ntolowa's questions.

I also visited a classroom for 12-13 year olds. The teacher, Jean, was a dominating force and the frayed end on the piece of bamboo she carried made me nervous about my own knuckles taking a rap. Despite her strong presence, the kids seemed to respect her and enjoy her snide comments. She was teaching about first aid and how to care for a fractured bone. The kids practiced creating splints with sticks and scarves and carried each other around. Next the students had to write answers to questions about first aid, and Jean asked me to walk around the classroom marking papers. I didn't even attempt to carry Jean's authority, and it was kind of strange to be looking over the kids' shoulders for errors, but I eventually got used to it.
With all of the famine and corruption happening in Malawi it filled me with hope to see these children learning and being just like kids anywhere. I will definitely be encouraging others to go for a visit and bring a simple lesson plan (as I want to do next time).
I actually forgot my camera yesterday, so the pictures in this post were taken by my my in laws Ursula and Andrea. I especially love this last one with Mr. Ntolowa and his class. There is so much going on it reminds me of a Where's Waldo. Click the picture for a larger version.

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