By Tikondane Vega:
For a long time, Maungu Primary School located at Chopela Village in Traditional Authority (TA) Malengachanzi in Nkhotakota has been cursing itself for ever existing on planet earth as its plight condemned it to a strong sense of guilt.
In the state the school was, one could easily be forgiven for thinking that the makeshift classrooms that teemed at one solitary corner of this village were an initiation camp as it required a sharp eye to notice that it was a school.
These temporary structures were erected by the villagers in a desperate attempt to bring education closer to their children.
It was in response to several accidents that fell upon children in this area as they crossed swollen rivers to access education at schools located at a distance, away from the village.
According to 45-year-old Clifford Moyo, one of the residents from Chopela Village, the nearest school was about 15 kilometres from this village and their children needed to cross two big rivers to access the school.
“To save lives of our children, we had to set up a school in this area so that we cut the distance and enable children to easily access education,” he says.
The establishment of the grass-thatched classrooms, according to Moyo, was the lasting solution for the communities to look after their children closer to their homes.
This effort was deemed to save children with age as low as five from the torture of enduring the 15 kilometres to access quality education.
It was a daunting task and a futile effort that could take ages to bring the school to the required standards.
But the villagers had to take this route to attract government’s attention.
Little wonder, therefore, upon its establishment, the head teacher operated under a tree while the rest of the teachers converged under other trees as ‘staff rooms’.
During rainy season, the teachers were faced with no option but suspend classes as the grass got soaked by the rains.
The case of Chopela was not an isolated one in a country that, according to a recent World Bank study on infrastructure development in sub-Saharan Africa, Malawi hangs at the far bottom of the index.
However, the adage that no situation is permanent became a reality until Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) came to the school’s rescue.
The school now has two decent classroom blocks, an administration block and four toilets constructed by the regulator in conjunction with postal operators in the country.
Macra led the other partners in the constructing of the structures; besides providing teaching and learning materials such as exercise books, pens, pencils and 100 desks to the school to the tune of K48 million.
Head Teacher for the school Edward Malizani was optimistic that the construction of the classroom blocks would improve learners’ condition at the school although more blocks are needed due to the high enrollment at the school.
“This was a beginning of good things and I commended Macra for the gesture. This school started on September 10 2014 with 300 learners and two teachers but now it has 602 learners and 10 teachers,” he observes.
District Education Manager for Nkhotakota Greystone Alindiamawo explains that the need to upgrade the school was long overdue.
“I hope learners at the school will take advantage of the classroom blocks to work hard in their studies to meaningfully contribute to the development of the country. I wish other well-wishers could emulate this gesture and continue from where Macra has left,” he says.
Macra Director General Godfrey Itaye says his organisation has a responsibility to contribute towards the country’s future, hence the construction of the classroom blocks at the school.
“Learners are the future of this country and supporting their education is critical to the country’s development. That is why we decided to support this school and we shall continue to do so in ensuring that learners have a conducive environment,” he reaffirms.
Itaye adds that, “As part of the organisation’s social responsibility as well as complementing government’s efforts for better and improved education, we decided to construct these classroom blocks. The new classroom blocks will encourage many pupils to attend classes as well as improve on quality and standard of education at the school.”
Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani says the initiative by Macra complements government’s efforts in providing decent learning environment for learners, thereby improving education standards.
He says quality education remains key and basis for national building, hence the intervention by Macra in supporting government in its quest to improve education in the country being commendable.
“I express my utmost appreciation to Macra for constructing classes but I am told more classes are needed so that the school can have Standard One to Eight, I would like to urge Macra to add more structures.
“Education plays a critical role in the socio-economic development of the nation; the Government of Malawi is committed to providing access, improving quality and relevance of education to the needs of the people. In fact, government takes education seriously as one of the priority sectors,” Botomani says.
The minister admits that government cannot do it alone but needs concerted efforts from partners like Macra and its operators to provide a conducive teaching and learning environment and improve the quality of education in general.
The story of poor infrastructure is a shared fate for most schools across the country, a stumbling block to the country’s quest to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 that obliges countries to improve education standards and ensure that there is inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.