Malawi here we come! It was quite a smooth border crossing until we had to pay our road tax. The banker was out for lunch and once he got back we learned that ‘the system was down’. Apparently they decided to upgrade their systems in the middle of the day and something went wrong. After waiting for two hours we were kind of done with it and we got to see ‘a manager’. After waiting a bit more he finally decided to give us a handwritten invoice.
We arrived at FloJa late in the afternoon. FloJa is a Dutch foundation with a daycare center near the village of Ngara. Next to that, they provide extra classes for kids who are in primary school already. André and Paulien, the amazing people that run the FloJa Foundation, did some research on the effect of the education at FloJa in relation to the results at the primary school. Children who went to FloJa have better results when they are starting at primary school but this effect fades away. This is one of the reasons why there are now also focussing on improving the primary schools in the area. The camping and B&B which they run generate some income which they use for the daycare center. It is truly a small paradise right on the shores of Lake Malawi.
When we visited the daycare center which is on the same property it turned out that the new school year had just started. The youngest ones were playing with some blocks and as soon as one kid gave you some blocks they all came to play with you. We then headed outside and played some football, used the swings and just gave them some attention. This is basically all they want from you. The headteacher Samuel was telling us what he learned the kids when they were at FloJa.
A classroom under a tree
The next day we joined André on his trip to the Ngara Primary School to make a small promotional video (see below). Before that, we had to pick up the chief of the village. We reached out to him by giving him a hand after which he explained that you should first sit down, then stand up again and then greet a chief. He did add that Dutchmen (like André) were always busy so he had no hard feelings ;-). After this ‘course’ of how to deal with a Malawi Chief, we drove towards the school.
Once we parked the car André showed us around. It was a remarkable thing to see. Some kids get their courses under a big tree since there is a shortage of classrooms. Other classrooms were so full that not everyone could sit down on a bench. Kids were sharing a bench or were just sitting on the ground in front of the class. Groups of 100 children in a class are not uncommon in Malawi. Another issue is that there are not enough textbooks available so this means that up to 9 kids have to share one book.
Ngara primary school project
André and Paulien are busy improving the quality of this school. Some new toilets are already built and they’re currently building a new classroom. There’s the intention to build several more classrooms, toilets and teachers’ houses. FloJa wants to stimulate the locals that they should strive for better education and facilities (and maintaining them).
One thing related to this aspect is making the chief responsible for getting the tuition fee. When they started there was hardly any money being asked and if parents decided not to pay this had no consequences. André also gave the local teachers computer training so that they can improve the quality of their administration (e.g. grades). Unfortunately, more and more teachers decided to stop coming. The ones that did visit now use a laptop to record grades so that they are more accurate. The manual way of doing this is by writing it down in a notebook, then rating it in another notebook. This turned out to be quite inaccurate.
This is witchcraft!
That day teaching was heavily disturbed by us since Lennart launched his drone so that we could make a video. The older people were talking about witchcraft, something they still believe in over here, and the kids were running after the drone. When we wanted to make a group photo the fun part really started. No one listened and they were only chasing the drone. After landing it again we went to a local village to pick up a pig who had to make some babies with the two pigs that Paulien and André own. With a lot of noise, we managed to put it in the canopy of the car.