The new semester is in full swing!
Our school currently has 438 students and six teachers.
The teachers of our school from left to right:
Brighton Khofi, Benson Mononga, Maria Guta, Thomas Fodya and Elizabeth Mangani. Mark Chikumbutso is absent.
The second school building of the Nyaudzudzu school is getting its finishing touches. The roof is finally finished! Final work on the floor and walls is underway.
The children will return from vacation on October 10, 2022 and start the new semester. The goal is to have the classrooms of the second building ready by then. The next goals include acquiring more desks and building a cooling ceiling. One class will still start the year outside under the shelter of the canopy when the new first graders are admitted. The state will also provide us with one more teacher for the new school year.
The journey here has been full of challenges. One of them has been finding permanent, committed employees for the construction. This has delayed the completion of the building and caused unexpected additional costs. The global price increases have been reflected in the steep rise in construction costs in Muona. In addition, structural poverty, weak democracy and deep-seated corruption have put our operations to test. Things don't always work as we would like, but we remind ourselves how big an impact the school has already had on the future of the children of Muona.
The Fingo organisation's project that focuses on building ownership of local people in the development of their community will end in December of this year. Lead by of our intern Bhumika, we are compiling teachers' stories on how the books and other teaching materials have helped improve children's reading skills or how the garden could be used as an aid in teaching and eventually as an addition to school meals.
The Local Innovations development project, funded by Fingo (the umbrella organization of Finnish non-profit organizations), has gotten off to a good start in Muona. The core idea of the project is empowering local communities to take charge on initiatives and implementation for the developmentof an area. In March our contact person John Alimoni and school teacher Thomas Fodya organized a training for 57 participants, including all our school's teachers, parents, students, village leaders, partners and school committee members.
Our association's work and funding for school construction, meals, and clean water was praised. In the brainstorming sessions the participants raised issues that felr important to them e.g. the need for textbooks, nutritious food and drop out rates of students, especially girls.
In May, one of our long-standing wishes came true when the school's students received their first textbooks, which make studying at home after school possible. The school received a total of 400 textbooks and 8 teachers' guides.
The school's garden has also taken its first steps towards blossoming. Sowing has been done and we received seedlings of fruit and shade trees and other plants at the school, including mango, guava, lemon, peach, avocado fruit trees and palm trees. Flowers will be planted around the teachers' office building. The tools and supplies needed to establish and maintain the garden have been paid for from the Fingo project funding budget. Fruit tree seedlings are paid for with specific donations. The school's vegetable garden facilitates education about nutritious food for both children and parents, while vegetables and fruits add variety the children's school meals. This is made possible by the school's well that provides irrigation water and the eco-toilets that will start providing fertilizer over time.
The wonderful story of Nyaudzudzu School continues - there is now a tap providing pure water in the school yard!
Building a well has been our goal for years, but we had to prioritize other construction projects until now. The extreme heat of the last few months in Malawi and the rundown well in the village encouraged us to act now. We made a deal with a local well drilling crew, and the anticipation of finding water began. After many days of hard work, the group hit rock at a depth of 18 meters and there was still no water in sight. It took hard negotiations, but the school committee, village leadership and engineers decided to break the rock. The drillers continued to dig down to 27.5 meters by hand, where they finally found about 4,500 liters of clean water resources. The new plan worked! This came at an additional cost, but we needed water. The children started a new semester on January 4, 2022, and for the first time they received clean water from the tap in the school yard.
School meals are another big cause for celebration for us. We were finally allowed to start cooking in the school kitchen - for the first time during the pandemic. The women on the school committee have organized cooking shifts of two women. Our contact John Alimoni and teacher Thomas Fodya emphasize the importance of school meals for children. Many of the school’s students come from poor families and the food delighted them beyond words. Organizing meals increases children’s attendance at school, reduces school dropout rates, and encourages learning.
In January the Nsanje region was hit by a powerful tropical storm and viscous rainfall. As a result of the storm, the whole country was left without power for more than a day as Malawi’s main hydropower plant had to be shut down because of flooding. Schools throughout the country were also closed for the day. Fortunately, the floods did not reach Nyaudzudzu school, but the nearest flood-affected area remained 16 km away. You can find videos of the flood damage in the surrounding areas on our Facebook page.
Nyaudzudzu Junior Primary School has now been running for a full year! It’s been a remarkable time for the 307 children and five teachers, the local community and our organization. The building and running of the school is a result of hard work and commitment.
Covid 19 shut down the school for a couple of months during the pandemic year but we are happy to be fully operational again. In the summer temperatures in Malawi can rise to extreme heights but the ceiling of our school building turned out to be an unexpected superhero. It has helped keeping the building cool enough for classes throughout the hot periods. The next group of first graders will start in January 2022 and our goal is to have the second school building finished by then. Right now we are working on the roof trusses.
The next challenge is drilling a solar-powered well by a nearby riverbed. The well would guarantee access to clean drinking water and enable starting a little garden and planting trees in the school area. A special committee will be appointed to take care of the maintenance of the well.
We are sending big packages of school supplies in a Malawi-bound container still this year. The packages include a lot of art supplies like pens, watercolors and paper that we hope will help unleash the children’s creativity.
Below you can see images of the everyday life at the Nyaudzudzu school, the second building under construction and school meal delivery.
The school is open! Nyaudzudzu Junior Primary School in Muona, Malawi opened its doors for the first students on the 12th of October. Five teachers and 140 pupils started the semester in the two finished classrooms.
The construction work still continues. In the summer we were informed that to open the school we would need to provide a work space for the teachers. Thanks to our local contact person John Alimoni the building could be completed before the opening. The kitchen and lunch hall buildings were finished just in time for the semester start as well.
The Covid-19 pandemic is visible in the everyday life of our school. The semester kicked off a little later than expected as all schools in Malawi had to close. We are also currently not allowed to organize school lunches. Instead every student is given a monthly portion of soy-corn flour blend to bring home.
The school opening has been a significant experience for the whole community. The children’s joy and eagerness to come to school has been immeasurable. Teachers, parents, community leaders and school officials have also expressed their excitement. The donated school supplies like paper, pencils, books and teachers’ office supplies were received with enthusiasm. Parents, teachers and pupils have been given guidance on the use of the eco toilets and composting.
The big opening day is getting closer! Or goal is to start our first semester in September 2020 - depending on the Coronavirus situation in Malawi.
The first school building is complete and the first teaching positions have been filled. Buildings for a teachers’ office and a kitchen/lunchroom are currently under construction. We are working on a plan for drilling a well and aim to have it working by spring 2021. The next item on our list is constructing another school building with two more classrooms. Muona would then have its own four-grade Junior School and the children of the village could start their school journey at a local school.
All 66 mahogany and steel desks are now done. The manufacturing of the desks at a local workshop has been great way to include local expertise and craftmanship into the project and has sparked excitement about the school in the community. Two eco-friendly outhouse toilets have also been completed.
Handing the school over to the local authorities is an important future milestone that we are working on. After the handover Malawi school officials will hire the teachers and pay their salaries. Our organization will still be responsible for providing the school lunches and uniforms. We want all the children to have an equal opportunity to take part in the education, without having to worry about food or clothing. 200 school uniforms have already been made by local tailors in Muona. The meals would be cooked and served by volunteers.
The global CoVid-19 pandemic is taking its toll on Malawi as well as our process but we are getting very close to starting our first semester!