Visit 2021

October 13, 2023
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Chairman’s visit to Malawi, November 2021

At the end of November, Peter Everett and his wife Fiona, visited Malawi to review progress of our current project, Mikuyu Secondary School.

Peter commented, “the Pandemic has prevented trips by our team to Malawi for nearly 2 years, but the good news is that thanks to our donors and our local project manager, there has been real progress in terms of teacher numbers, infrastructure, resources and community involvement.

Teacher numbers are up from 3 to 6 (plus one part time) which means the full curriculum can be taught. Completion of teachers housing, library, offices, solar power means that the school has most of the infrastructure required and there are enough books and science equipment for the curriculum too. The best news is that pupil numbers continue to increase.

Our priority for this visit was to repeat the community “listening” events we ran in 2019. Over 2 days community leaders, pupils, parents, and teachers discussed and then formally presented to us (see photos) what they believed to be the priorities for the next 6 months.

Top of the list is a hostel to accommodate girls from the surrounding communities. (Most well-established schools in rural Africa have hostels.)  We are keen to support this initiative as part of our drive for girls’ education, so will be reporting back on this in the New Year.

From left: Oscar Mponda (Project Manager),Peter and Fiona Everett and Michael Masudi( Headmaster, All Saints School, Mtunthama)

Whilst we were in Malawi, we also delivered 5 refurbished laptops (donated by Rowledge residents)  for use by the pupils. With a new 4G mast nearby we are hopeful that the Pupils will soon have their first opportunity to learn IT skills and connect with the world outside Mikuyu.

To much joy of the teachers, we also delivered a complete set of laboratory equipment for the School.

Finally, on our last day we delivered textbooks, pencils, and teaching supplies to 2 Primary Schools nearby. Our focus here is to support the older primary school children who go on to the Secondary school.

Perhaps the best news for Malawi Schools Trust is that the Community leaders now have real engagement in the school and see it as a key part of the area. The community has started making bricks and building another teachers’ house, without asking us for support.

Peter said, ”there is a real sense that the community has the leadership and motivation to help the school thrive in the future.

It was great to meet all the key people we work with in Malawi including Michael Masudi, Headmaster of All Saints school, our previous project.

All in all, we had an inspiring visit. Thanks to our wonderful donors, we have achieved a great deal in the last 2 years.”

First Step into the World of IT- Computers for Mikuyu

Children at Mikuyu secondary school have had no exposure to computing or the internet. Most have never touched a computer before, let alone used one for learning. Many are afraid to touch a tablet or computer. Of course, none of them own a mobile phone. And until we installed solar power in the school in 2021, they and their teachers had no access to electricity.  It is important to recognise how very basic their facilities are, all our work makes a significant difference to their everyday education.  Until now any use of IT in Mikuyu has been limited to Teachers who use their own laptops for very basic functions e.g. email.

But there is good news. Despite the subsistence existence of everyone in Mikuyu, there is a very good 4G signal in the area.

As part of our efforts to improve Mikuyu Secondary School and build economic prospects for Pupils, Malawi Schools Trust donated 5 laptops for use by the Pupils. We recognise this is a small step but for the students at Mikuyu it feels incredibly important to have made this initial leap into technology.

These second-hand laptops were donated by residents in Rowledge and Bentley. All of them have been professionally refurbished and have the same software.

The laptops were received with excitement by the Pupils and Staff during our visit in December. This even led to an impromptu lesson on basic PC functions.

During 2022 we plan to work with Teachers and Pupils to develop their confidence in the IT world and to use the laptops to help with the Curriculum. To facilitate this, we have arranged a mentorship programme that begins in 2022(More on this soon).

Thank you to all our wonderful donors.

If you have a refurbished laptop that you would like to donate, please get in touch.

Pupils being shown how to turn a laptop on and off

Pupils receiving Laptops and Maths Sets

Girls’ Hostel at Mikuyu</h4 >

At Malawi Schools Trust we believe in the power of education to help end poverty. And we believe that if you educate a girl, you change the entire dynamic of a household and a community.

Sadly, a disproportionate number of girls are unable to complete their secondary education. They drop out of schooling due to a number of issues such as family responsibilities, pregnancies, child marriages, school fees, long walking distances, personal safety and lack of sanitary facilities.

Girls’ hostels are a common feature of the education system in Sub Sahara Africa. In the last few years Malawi Schools Trust has supported the development of a Girls Hostel for 80 girls at All Saints School. We have seen the powerful impact the Hostel has had on girls and the community.

Imagine our surprise then when on their trip to Mikuyu in November, Peter and Fiona found that 17 girls had moved into the old Administration building and were using it as a dormitory during the week! These girls all came from Msiwa a village 10kms away and are boosting the numbers of children at the school.

A supportive “Mothers Group”

We also found out that the “Mothers Group”, a community based organisation linking the Senior Management  and Parent Teachers Association, were behind the use of the building and its ongoing care. The Mothers Group have been working with families in the region to get girls back to school after the extended school closures through the Pandemic. The greater involvement of the community in projects such as this, is a further indication of how the development of Mikuyu School has energised local leadership and initiatives.

Fiona took some time to talk with the girls that are using this building. Here’s the Q+A with the girls:

Q:  How long does it take to walk to School?

A: 1 hour, over 1 hour, 1.5 hours, I leave at home at 6am

Q: What time do you get home?

A: I leave School after 2pm and get home Around 4pm

Q: What do you when you first get home?

A: Household chores, cleaning, getting water from boreholes, farming such as forming ridges in the fields for planting , cooking

Q: When do you get to study?

A: After homework chores; later after food and homeworking

Q: Can you study when it gets dark after 6pm?

A: Sometimes; yes with small torches; with lamp light; never

Q: What other problems does walking home give you?

A: We are tired;  we are too tired to study; we are too preoccupied to study

Q: How many of you are staying in this building?

A: A maximum 17, sometimes 9

Q: How do you feed yourselves?

A: On Monday’s our Parents give us maize flower and vegetables so we can cook our own food on a fire pit.

Q: Why are you staying in this temporary building?

A: I get time to study; I am studying; I have energy to study, I am with friends

It was clear to us that these girls were motivated by using this building during the week. They have identified a need and have actively sought a solution. However, it is also clear this solution cannot be long term. The photos show the very small size of the existing building and the extremely limited facilities on offer. Despite simple living conditions, If you watch the Video you can hear their laughter and energy.

Following subsequent meetings with the Pupils, Mothers Group and community leaders, it’s clear that our next project should be a Hostel, which should accommodate up to 30 girls. We are now working on designs and budgets for a building accommodating 30-40 girls in the hope that we can support Mikuyu with a Hostel for Girls in 2022.

More news on this in January.

Pupils outside the Temporary Dormitory

Fiona Everett with the Girls using the Temporary Dormitory

Conditions are very basic in the building

All the Girls sleep on the floor and cook their own food

Menstrual Health Project Update</h4 >

One of the first initiatives we began in Mikuyu was with the Frensham Heights trip in 2018 when we invested in a local project to promote and support young women with menstrual health education. This project has since been funded by the Friends of Frensham, other local donors and international donors alike. It is clear that young Malawian women drop out of school at a much higher level than young men. There are many reasons for this: child marriage, pregnancy, having to support the family farm etc. In addition girls would report that they could not attend school during their menstruation cycle because they have no supplies and would be kept at home.

It was so moving and powerful to see the young Frensham students and the girls of Mikuyu, along with many of their mothers, meeting to discuss these challenges

Malawi Schools Trust paid for two members of the All Saints School staff to visit Mikuyu regularly, to provide cups and provisions and to continue the education of the girls.

On their recent visit Peter and Fiona Everett found the programme to be continuing successfully.  Peter said “ Thanks to a donation from an individual in Rotary (Germany) we have been able to continue this work over the last 2 years.

But we noted that the age of girls at Mikuyu is 14-19 years old.

After visiting nearby Primary Schools that send children to Mikuyu, we are discussing with Alice how we can expand this important work to help younger girls in the community.”

It was clear that there is great community support for this initiative. Indeed the Mothers’ Group showed their engagement with the whole issue of girls education by supporting the “temporary hostel” (see article) and by playing a leading role in encouraging girls who have dropped out of education to reengage.

By developing local leadership, enthusing local women and providing provision for better menstrual health we can see real change in the lives of girls in the community.

Alice Ngumbria leading a meeting with Mothers and Pupils 2021

Frensham Heights Pupils joining with the girls at Mikuyu to discuss Menstrual Health in 2018

Teachers lives changed – the staff housing project at Mikuyu</h4 >

Thanks to the hard work and generous donations of the Malawi Schools Trust community we were delighted to compete this significant project in 2021.  The goal of increasing staff housing is multi-layered; it gives respect to teaching staff who are living in an isolated rural area, it adds security to the school with staff on site and it improves education as the whole school can remain busy and utilised throughout the seasons.

Peter and Fiona Everett visited Mikuyu recently and were able to see the completed houses, as well as meet the two families who are now in residence.

Teachers and their families outside their new Homes

In discussion with Denis and Elliot about their new homes it was heart warming and exciting to hear their feedback.  Both of the teachers explained how their lives had changed, “having the staff houses has brough a notable difference to my life” Denis explained, saying that his children could now attend the local primary school and that he was available to the Mikuyu students “at any time of day”.   Denis also explained that without the housing he would have had to leave the area, the availability of quality housing has kept him at Mikuyu and secured his commitment into the future.

Elliot added that without housing he would have to walk to and from school each day. “I had to walk so far, when the rains come, the river floods and I could not come to school.” The houses have brought a great change to my life and to my family.

It is easy for us to forget the daily challenge of life in a rural community, and in a developing country. Every day tasks are harder and more time consuming. By providing high quality housing Malawi Schools Trust – through your hard work – have improved the lives of two families, the educational provision in the school and ensure greater continuity of teachers who can commit themselves to the school.

This investment has also had an unexpected impact on the whole Mikuyu community.  Because they can see their school improving and developing the local people have started to build a third teacher’s house, providing bricks and labour of their own to continue this steady improvement. It is so empowering to Mikuyu and to Malawi Schools Trust to feel this community belief an engagement with their future.

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