Along with Symon Chibaka, Children in the Wilderness (CITW) Programme Coordinator, Malawi and Jan Mallen (CITW SA board member), I visited the CITW Malawi programme in the Southern Region, the aim being to meet with local teachers to get feedback on our first CITW Eco-Club Curriculum book.
We were accommodated at Mvuu Camp for four nights and Heughlin’s Lodge for one night, courtesy of Central African Wilderness Safaris Malawi.
First up, we visited Ntapwa Primary School (Jahito village on the eastern side of the Shire River) where we met CITW YES (Youth Environmental Stewardship Programme) members from the area. Everyone was handed special CITW t-shirts which made them easily identifiable for the task at hand. Members were divided into smaller groups and went out to interview members of the community (including headmen/chiefs) about early school dropout and child marriages. Each group was accompanied by a videographer.
Interview with the chief of Jahito village
School teacher Luke showed me around the school and updated me on developments since my visit there in 2014. The tree planting ceremony that we had attended in 2014 saw children planting fruit trees and blue gum trees. Sadly none of the fruit trees have survived, but the blue gums are doing well.
A photograph to show the surviving blue gums planted in 2014
The school (villagers) has been making bricks and so far have 55,000 bricks towards additional school classrooms that are being built with the help of government school monies.
Meanwhile back at the school, one of the CITW teams began playing music to attract children and villagers to the school and create interest in the goings-on. Matthews held a quiz and children/villagers won small prizes (from the Pack-for-a-Purpose donations). Items like sugar and soap were used to supplement the prizes.
A small editing team spent the afternoon compiling the footage into a short video.
Once they returned from interviews, YES members were introduced to the villagers and each gave their name and a short presentation about themselves and CITW.
After lunch, the YES boys played a game of soccer against villagers and the YES girls took on local girls in a game of netball.
Jan and Dudu (one of the YES members who is a primary school teacher at a rural school in the Lilongwe district) taught children how to play hopscotch and various left-right coordination games.
At sunset, all the villagers gathered at the school to watch the edited video highlights of the interviews.
The following day we visited Kafulafula Primary School where the YES members undertook the same programme as the previous day. We were accompanied by David Luke (Nanthomba teacher and CITW Eco-Club mentor) chatting to local shopkeepers and villagers. David’s commentary on village life and social structures was very enlightening.
The CITW Open Day was up next at Nanthomba Primary School (the focus of all H.E.L.P Malawi’s activities in the region). Principals and a limited number of Eco-Club members from nearby schools also attended.
After introductions, Symon Chibaka explained the CITW programme aims and objectives. Thereafter the dignitaries, VIP guests, national television crew and children were divided into smaller groups and had a walkabout around the school. Various areas had been set up with CITW messages and certain members talked the groups through the relevant information.
After the walkabout, some Nanthomba CITW Eco-Club members and the YES members performed a number of role plays with environmental messages including 'No Poaching'. After the wrap-up and farewells, the principals and dignitaries were taken to lunch at Mvuu Camp.
Jan and I have decided to take on a personal fundraising campaign to raise funds to repaint all eight classrooms at Kafulafula Primary, given that Wilderness Safaris built four of the classrooms back in 2009 (we have already purchased the paint for the first two classrooms) and many of the Mvuu Camp staff have family attending the school.
We hope a lick of paint will encourage the children to “enjoy going to school!"
Written and Photographed by Janet Wilkinson