Ever since I planned this trip everything has just fallen into place, and this feeling that things are ‘meant to be’ has just kept on and on! When I wrote my initial letter to the Headteacher of Chikale school back in March, I never told him about any money available from fundraising, I wanted him to accept me into the school on the basis of educational support. On my first day at Chikale school, it was obvious that there was a massive shortage of classrooms, with 2 classes being taught under trees and one class being taught in an old dilapidated house, where 100 plus children were (and still are) squeezed into a L-shaped corridor. The school is very aware of the challenges it faces, the local authorities too. Unfortunately there is just not the money available from the government to support the school.
Before I arrived, the school committee had already decided to take action towards building a new school block, in the hope that if they had a plan and made a start, some other help may come along. The first stage in building in Malawi, is the preparation of the bricks. On the day I arrived at the school, the Headteacher had sent all the children home (1000+) to ask for 500 Kwacha from their parents and carers. This is about £2.50, which is loads of money out here! The money collected from the families who could pay, raised just over half the money for the cost of the bricks, this was the only source of income the school has had towards the building. I knew there couldn’t have been a better time for me to arrive with the money we’d raised in Liverpool. I asked the Headteacher to call a committee meeting the following Saturday to discuss the school’s development.
The first school committee meeting was a huge success, the committee members all really care about the school and share the same forward vision for the school’s development. They were really pleased when I told them there was money available from the fundraising that had taken place in Liverpool, as well as an additional donation from a group called ‘World Challenge’. Immediately I withdrew some of the charity money to pay for the remaining bricks to be made, so the process of building could begin. The following day, myself along with the chairman and treasurer of the school committee opened and became signatories of an account with NBS Bank named, Chikale School Development Fund. All the charity money raised has now been transferred over to this account.
During the second committee meeting we discussed the costs for the building and labour. Gary and Catherine, who run Mayoka Lodge next door to where I am staying, have a lot of experience with construction. They kindly offered to organise the builders for the job, phew, as I have no idea about building! So all 40,000 bricks have been prepared and stacked into a furnace, firewood has been brought to the site and tonight the bricks will be burnt!
Teaching continues to go really well. I am now in my fourth week and the kids I teach on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday have got really into speaking and listening, drama and writing. They are all keen, interested and great fun to work with.
Working with the teachers on a Tuesday and Thursday in standards 5, 6, 7 and 8 is a great experience, but tough at times, as I realise what it is to be a teacher in Malawi with every lesson being like delivering an assembly! Before I can even begin my lesson on Tuesday morning in Standard 5 (the classroom that is not a classroom but an L-shaped corridor in an old house), I have to clamber and manoeuvre myself around 100 bodies, trying not to step on fingers and toes, before arriving at the front of the classroom. On one day last week I had a dog called, Baggy, who lives at Butterfly Lodge, follow me to school. He insisted in being at my side during every lesson in every classroom. I was kind of enjoying his company and the knowing that ‘dogs would never be allowed in classrooms in England,’ that was until I reached my Standard 7 class. I had just introduced Baggy as the new pupil learning English, when he only decided to vomit, yep really, right at my feet. Standard 7 thought this was hilarious, well me, I’ve never let Baggy follow me to school again!
Big hello’s to all my friends, family and work friends from St Hugh’s! A massive hello to all the children from St Hugh’s, I’ve got penpal letters in the post for you!!!