Malawi teaches a lesson or two to German youth


Jumping about and looking excited, the children shouted “Azungu! Azungu!” [White people! White people!]”.

That was when 12 German youths passed by in Makanjira in Mangochi sitting in the back of a pick-up.

They were on their way to launch a 30,000 euros school block they had helped build for Chilinda Primary School in the area.


The children literally chased after the vehicle with some trying to greet the visitors in the little English they know.

Accompanying the youths are seven teachers trying to give the socially disadvantaged young German citizens a second chance in life by giving them all the love and care they need to become productive citizens of society.

The new school block is the work of their hands. It is a little something to show the world that they are just as capable as anyone if given a bit of love and care.


It is not unusual to see many Malawian children or adults shout “azungu!” when Europeans visit their areas before breaking into songs of welcome with their trademark “Warm Heart of Malawi” friendly smile.

It’s this warmth and friendliness that captured the heart of one of the German youths.

Sebastian Broker, 17, says he likes helping and describes Malawi as a “nice place and the opposite of Germany because people in Malawi are friendlier than in Germany and the weather is not the same.”

He dreams of having a job in IT as he loves social media especially Facebook and Twitter but he does not plan to go to college.

However, his life was not always looking rosy because he got into trouble for graffiti and other things he did when he was involved with a street gang including smoking chamba (marijuana).

“I was involved with three gangs in our city and started when I was 13 but now my life is in control,” says the young man who together with the other youth showered praises on Malawi and the country’s very rich cultures.

The youth were full of admiration and learned a lot by living a “simple life” in Malawi.

They all had a typical Malawi village life experience in Makanjira, Mangochi, where they spent time helping build the school block for Chilinda Primary School.

Their base was a simple rest house equipped with a pit latrine and cold water to bath using a bucket.

They cooked their food on an open fire and drank water they treated themselves.

It was a life far different from the one they would lead back in their developed country but the youth had fun. After work at the school block site, they spent time playing games, chatting or trekking to a nearby trading centre.

Evelyn Seyfried, chairperson of the Travelling Work school Scholen says The Reisende Werkschule Scholen is a small school registered as a private institute which was founded in 1979 by a group of educationists.

The school, among other things, aims to prepare the youth for future trades and professions, job-seeking methodologies, societal learning, partnership with the Third World and fostering the understanding and solidarity amongst all people without regard to race, colour or creed.

Upon completion, successful candidates are awarded a High School Leaving Certificate and the course duration is limited to two years. It is offered to “German school dropouts who are usually socially disadvantaged or young people with very difficult social backgrounds.”

But why out of the more than 50 countries in Africa did they choose Malawi?

“We looked for a country with a democratic process, English speaking, a place where we would feel secure,” explains Seyfried.

“It’s important for cultural exchange and we have learned a lot from Malawian people. We have learned not to be right on time but follow African time so we have had to slow down.

“We have also learned that Malawians are friendly and more flexible than people in Europe who don’t have time for things. In Malawi people have plenty of time and other things like taking care of their families, communities, friendships etc,” adds Seyfried.

School authorities, Chief Chilinda, a representative of Senior Chief Makanjira and Benedicto Chambo, who is Member of Parliament for the area, were all over the moon and happy with the newly built school block.

Children faced problems going to schools where they had to cross rivers. So the late Senior Chief requested a Chilinda school through the German government through Travelling Work School who were already in the area and built three blocks for them.

“We now have six classes, nine teachers, 1090 pupils. The school has eased the distance for learners to go to far schools,” said Chambo.

The Travelling work school is situated in a small village called Scholen in the federal state of Niederasachsen (Lower Saxia) in Germany. It’s a boarding school type where the students live and learn for the duration of the course.

A two-month working visit to Africa plays a central role in the course structure and the main motive is to provide the students with practical exposure to the relationship between the rich and poor countries of the world and their independence.

Their aim, according to Seyfried, is not only to dwell on material aspects but to also tackle aspects of racism and prejudice.

In the past 32 years they have visited different parts of Africa including a refugee camp in Western Sahara, a village in Northern Ghana, Gambia and now Malawi.

The Travelling Work School functions as a small, private and nongovernmental organisation and one can only wait to see if such similar initiatives will be set up by Malawians for disadvantaged or trouble Malawi youth.

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