As recently as 2004, goats lumbered about while rabbits grazed in the underground in what used to be the bushes and shrub-infested grounds of Nangungu Primary School in Mangochi District.
Located some 15 kilometres from Mpiripiri, the headquarters of Senior Chief Makanjira, Nangungu was, education access-wise, one of the forgotten places in the country.
Until some well-wishers from Germany, under the umbrella of Reisende Werkschule Scholen or the Travelling Workschool, decided to change the face of the place.
Under the then-chairman Michael von Studnitz, the non-governmental organisation mobilised youths from Germany to construct a school block, paving the way for the transformation of the place.
In 2009, they were back and a placard placed at the door of the school block they constructed bears testimony of the permanent mark they left in the hearts of the people of Mangochi.
“This school was built in common workshop with the people of Makonjeni, the teachers and Travelling Workschool, Germany. Set up in a period between August and October 2009 with financial support from Bingo Umweltstiftung Nieldersachsen Stiftung Umverteilen Berlin and RWTH Aachen University Sport,” it reads.
Under that message are names of those that raised that school block and head teacher’s house from a mere idea to tangible structures. These are Arno, Christoph H, Christoph A, Eike, Marei, Mike, Jutta, Niels, Kevin B, Florian, Floyd, Kevin I, Leon Michelle, Mirko, Nadine, Rabea, Rene, Rouven and Sandra.
The individuals might have forgotten about their contribution to Malawi’s education sector but, for community members around Nangungu Primary School, the structures that stand imposingly in the open ground are testimony of a lasting contribution.
However, after observing that the two blocks they constructed, each with two classes, were not enough, the Germans were back in Malawi this year. Their mission? To construct a third two-classroom block between September and October this year.
Alina, Birgit, Christoph, Evelyn, Holger, Jonas, Kodrad, Sebastian, Susanne, Hakan, Lamin, Lea, Lia, Max, Momo, Nils, Sinan and Taylor are the people that, working hand-in-hand with Makanjira community members, constructed the block.
This time, Sattler Media Group and Stiftung Umverteilen of Germany funded construction works.
According to Makanjira Community Development Assistant Zasintha Namagonya, the Germans’ work has contributed to infrastructure development efforts there.
He said only through the development of sound infrastructure can children, notably the girl child, be lured to school.
This is especially true for Mangochi where, according to Ministry of Education statistics, only 50.9 percent of people were literate in 2005.
Today, not much has changed.
Take, for example, Local Government’s call for 15 foremen to take part in public projects in Mangochi District.
By Monday, October 23 2022, the Local Government authorities only had five applications from people based in Binali and Chitchole— areas where the public projects will be implemented— despite that the highest qualification needed is a Malawi School Certificate of Education.
Makanjira North Ward Councillor Julius M’mbwana said a lot needs to be done to ensure that children of Mangochi throng schools.
He suggested that initiation ceremonies should not be conducted while schools are in session.
However, Nangungu Primary School Head teacher Owen Kabango said they were doing their best to lure children to school.
He said infrastructure erected by the Germans has been one of the factors attracting boys and girls to school.
Indeed, stakeholders’ efforts seem to be bearing fruit, according to Mpiripiri Zone Primary Education Adviser (PEA) Peter Mteteka.
“Last year, Nangungu Primary School had nine Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) candidates, out of which one did not sit examinations.
“The good news is that all those that sat examinations from Nangungu Primary School passed the examinations and will have PSLCE certificates. To add an icing to the cake, PSLCE candidates from Nangungu Primary School will not sit examinations at Mpiripiri. There are more than PSLCE candidates for 2023 now and, as such, they will sit the examinations right here (at Nangungu). They will not have to cover the relatively long distance to Mpiripiri,” Mteteka said.
PSLCE results which the Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) released on October 2 this year indicated that there was a marginal drop in the overall pass rate.
Maneb Executive Director Dorothy Nampota explained that, unlike last year, when 83.83 percent of candidates who sat examinations passed, this year the pass rate stands at 83.24 percent.
Nampota said out of 260,295 candidates who sat the examination, 216, 664 passed.
Among them were Nangungu Primary School candidates.
However, Mteteka bemoaned the tendency of some parents and guardians who send children to initiation camps while classes are in session.
By Monday, October 23 2022, which is two weeks after classes resumed, there were at least five initiation camps in the Makanjira area, denying children the right to go to school.
Consequently, only 227 children have enrolled in standard one at Nangungu.
The PEA felt the figure could have been higher had it not been for initiation camps.
This notwithstanding, the Germans are pressing on with their mission of improving education standards in Mangochi District.
This is according to Reisende Werkschule Scholen Chairman Christoph Heckhausen.
Speaking when he handed over the third school block they have constructed at Nangungu, he said: “Today, we would like to hand over the school block to the Ministry of Education through the District Education Manager, Primary Education Adviser and the teachers of Nangungu Primary School. We hope and wish that you will take care of the school, including all the desks and materials for learners.
“We built the school for the people, especially the kids of Nangungu and surrounding areas. Hopefully, it will be a good place for you to study; to learn how to read and scribe; to learn English and mathematics so that you can create and develop your personal life and the area you live in.”
Heckhausen added: “We hope that you, adults, teachers and parents will support the children and learners to give them the necessary time for the best possible development. We also hope that the amount of people who learn at this school increases. We have also given you exercise books, pencils, water buckets as well as balls. We will continue supporting you in your education endeavours.”
The hope, come next year, is that not only will Nangungu Primary School candidates pass examinations with flying colours; they all should book places in national secondary schools.