By MARTIN KANTANDE
WHILE holidays are times of joy for almost every learner, especially primary school pupils, this is not the case for Amina Nelson of Nangondo Primary School of Traditional Authority Liwonde in Machinga district.
The nine-year old standard four pupil, who has always dreaded school times due to lack of potable water at the school since 2007, expressed that the thought of having a borehole at the school for their use is enough motivation to walk for more than a kilometre from her Mawimba Village to the school, which is in Makote Village.
She recalls how the school has been operating without potable water since she was in standard one, let alone a covered and protected well, and parents from surrounding villages developing a roster on which village was to ferry jerry cans of water for the pupils to drink.
At some point, the parents ganged up and agreed to keep their children from school for a full fortnight as a measure to bring to the attention to power holders the appalling conditions in which the learners were attending classes.
“But we backtracked after reasoning that as much as the issue of water at the school was important, our action of making our children abscond classes was also infringing on their right to education.
So we agreed to let them resume classes but intensified our efforts to knock on the doors of power holders to address the issue”, says Mercy Abu, one of the parents from Kazembe village. For the people around Nangondo Primary School, the perseverance, courage and determination to fight for their rights has finally borne fruits as Machinga District Council has finally appreciated the need to have potable water at the school and has drilled a borehole using the District Development Fund.
The climax of all this was on Friday, April 21 as the Traditional Authority Liwonde officially launched the borehole amidst smiling parents and learners. For Mayeso Mbewe, a teacher at the school responsible for sanitation, the borehole was a dream come true not for the pupils alone, but the entire community, looking at the water challenges the community has been facing. To him, there should always be deliberate efforts to ensure that there are proper structures and mechanisms that would help the intended beneficiaries access the service.
“All we can ask of from the school management committee is the establishment of procedures so that the pupils and the community members surrounding this borehole do not get in conflict as the problem of water is really big in the area,” pleaded Mbewe.
Tracing the issue back, one wonders whether there is more that development partners can do apart from service provision to vulnerable communities. This was answered expressively by the comedy performed by Nthundu Talandira Regenerated Freirean Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques (Reflect) Circle, the force behind the newly-drilled borehole.
Nthundu Reflect Circle is a product of ADRA, Malawi’s Action for Social Change (ASC) Programme, that is being implemented in Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Machinga. The reflect approach is based on the theoretical framework developed by Paulo Freire and draws on Participatory Rural Appraisal techniques to promote active dialogue and empowerment as literacy circle participants develop their own materials and thereby take ownership of the issues that arise as their skills develop.
Reflect is an advocacy approach to development which builds on the experience and key lessons which ADRA Denmark and Malawi have learnt by working with other African partners in poor and vulnerable communities since 2009.
By design, the programme’s bottom-up approach aims to have people living in poverty empowered to participate and contribute to realize their rights to sustainable development. According to ADRA Programme Manager, Emma Jakobo, the ASC seeks to support the creation of a vibrant civil society that can contribute to development as dynamic actors in social, political and economic development processes.
It thus aims to reduce poverty through promotion of sustainable livelihoods, participation and rights among poor and marginalized population groups, empowering people living in poverty and vulnerable groups to analyse their situation, identify problems, needs and interests and to advocate for social change in order to improve their lives.
The ASC program seeks to empower community members living in poverty and the civil society by building their capacity to tackle the challenges they face and to create a vibrant civil society in Malawi that can contribute to development.
Even GVH Mangamba hailed the emergence of Reflect Circles in the area as the turning point for people in the community, saying the people are now able to realize their rights, the issues that impinge them most, brainstorm on how best to address them and then seek assistance from those that are obliged to do so.
According to Nangondo Teacher Development Zone Chair, Chifundo Wahowa, the approach that Reflect circles are using to demand service delivery by authorities is greatly changing the development landscape in the area.
“The approach is a game changer as it stresses on the advocacy raising awareness of the pressing needs the community is facing. We just hope this does not end here as we have many challenges that need to be addressed,” prayed Wahowa.
Just as a tale of advocacy might sound irrelevant in community development, the revelation by Simplex Mmora, the councilor for Mbonechera Ward, in which the borehole was drilled, while sometimes resources are already available, it takes the bravery of the beneficiaries to access such. He cited the same issue of water at Nangondo as a typical example on how advocacy can help people living in poverty demand their rights and access livelihood opportunities.
“The council was shifting the blame on the contractors who they said were not willing to come and drill the borehole in the area. It is vigilance that has helped us to compel the power holders to respond to the need,” added Mmora.
Substantiating Mmora’s claims, Senior Chief Liwonde said he could not believe it when he was shown records at the district council indicating that the borehole had already been drilled. He said the new District Commissioner of the area asked him to bring evidence that the indicated borehole really did not exist.
“I am particularly happy that some civil servants have the welfare of the people at heart. The new District Commissioner, Bester Mandere, and the District Education Manager all appreciated the magnitude of the problem and assured me of their commitment, and here we are now launching the borehole,” T/A Liwonde said with a smile.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues