Thembe: a New School for Africa in Malawi
Blantyre, 7 November 2007 – Gaelle Sevenier. Blessings Molles is a “single orphan” attending Thembe school located in the Mulanje district of Malawi. Thembe is one of the selected schools where UNICEF is constructing additional classrooms and furnishing them as part of the Schools for Africa Programme.
Blessings is a 12 year-old standard 7 student from a school which provides education for a little over 1,000 children.
Life hasn’t been easy for the little boy. He was 8 when his father died. His mother struggled to survive with her six children, aged 4 to 14, and decided to go look for work in the town of Blantyre, one hour away from Sakhama. Although she found a job as a house maid, she only earned 1,800 Malawi kwacha a month (little over 10 USD), which was not sufficient to support her entire family. Blessings had to leave his mother to go back to the village and stay with his grandmother.
“By coming to the village, I reduced the number of children my mother had to take care of ” says the little boy. “I prefer living in the village anyway, and I love going to my school. I am very happy about the new blocks that are being constructed. Now during the rainy season, we won’t have to study outside anymore.”
The Multi-Country Child Friendly Schools for Africa Initiative is part of the process of creating child-friendly school environments for millions of children in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Malawi. In Thembe school, four new classrooms are being built. The new blocks will provide an adequate learning environment for thousands of children for at least the next four decades.
“It is difficult to study when we sit outside,” says Blessings, who often had to sit on the ground or if lucky, under a tree. “All the children are always disturbed with whatever is happening outside. Sometimes they run after cars. Also the rain and the sun are problems. It can be too bright and too hot to study in the sun. Or when it rains, we have to go home because we have nowhere dry to stay.”
Mrs Meresimba, the Government’s Primary Education Adviser, admits that sitting under a tree does not attract teachers in rural areas. “With the new blocks being built in Thembe school, the furniture that has been ordered for the new classrooms and the separate toilets for boys and girls, the District Manager will have problems with selection among teachers candidates. Many will want to join this school.”