School block to change the lives of pupils in Malawi
By Kusali Kubwalo
From a distance, Miteme Junior Primary School looks like a market place with vendors in school uniform. On close inspection, one realizes that this is a school without a single classroom. Classes one to five are all held under trees, the only difference being class five which has desks.
As the school has four teachers against five classes, one class is always left to roam about aimlessly. Efforts to enforce discipline to ensure that the pupils sit quietly under a tree do not seem to work and the head teacher has given up.
“The environment is not conducive, most pupils would rather just stay at home than come here and sit on the floor,” says headmaster of the school, Widow Mazengera.
The school is located in the plains of Lilongwe, where illiteracy levels are very high at around 69 per cent, according to the 2006 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey. Most families earn a living from farming and would rather have the children help in the farm than go to school.
Although the school has over 520 registered pupils, the daily average attendance is just over a hundred. In the rainy season, school shuts down for at least three months until it’s dry again.
“During this period, we lose a lot of pupils. Most drop out and do not return to school. Or when they do, it’s not to learn but to play with their friends,” complains Mazengera.
The school does not have a single water point. Children have to go back home for a cup of water. Of course, most just knock off for the day.
There is hope at the end of the tunnel though, as under the Schools for Africa Initiative, UNICEF plans to build a school block and some toilets for the school.
“The idea is to make this school child friendly so that children can be motivated to stay in school,” explains Catherine Chirwa, Education Specialist at UNICEF.
The Child-Friendly School model is a framework which defines quality in education in an integrated and holistic manner. It aims to translate the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child into classroom practice and school management. To achieve this, the CFS model promotes quality education, encourages the provision of healthy and protective environments for learning, and provides a safe environment for children who are orphaned and made vulnerable by poverty, violence, and HIV and AIDS.
Hopefully, once Miteme becomes a child-friendly school, pupils from Khonthi village will finally enjoy their right to education.