We are excited to announce that we are ahead of schedule in building the schools we have committed to build with Madonna’s charity Raising Malawi. In January 2012, we announced we would build 10 schools in Malawi villages that needed them the most, and we’d do it by summer 2013. We’ve just broken ground on our ninth and tenth schools!
buildOn Country Director in Malawi, Maurice Muchene, has been emailing reports to buildOn, stating that the villagers in the communities where we are building are working hard and ahead of schedule. On October 16, we broke ground on the Kazenga School (our ninth school) in Longwe, a village with a population of approximately 3,500 people. Right now the students walk four kilometers (approximately 2.5 miles) every day to attend school, Muchene said. Once the school is complete they will no longer have to.
On October 18th, we broke ground on the Mkoma Chilolo School, named after the village. During the ground-breaking ceremony, Anas Banda, the 49-year-old village chief, said, “I am very willing and ready to build this school to ensure that our children have the best possible opportunity of completing their primary school.”
We spoke with Raising Malawi’s Sarah Ezzy to ask her about her recent trip to Malawi to visit the Mkwayule and Kasumbi schools for the first time with Muchene and Edmas Kayimba, one of buildOn’s Field Coordinators.
What was the goal of the trip?
The purpose was to see the completed schools, meet the team on the ground, meet the community members… and see the impact of the schools on their lives. We spent a significant amount of time at the Kasumbi school which was still under construction. There were a lot of people there working on the school. It was wonderful to see the involvement of the community in the school project.
What did you learn from the community members?
It was just fantastic to hear from the community. The moms were talking about how great it was that their kids; eight, nine, and 10 years old, weren’t going to have to walk 10 kilometers to the nearest school. They were thrilled that they would no longer have to worry about their kids’ safety as accidents often occurred during the long walk, and were excited that they would attend a local school. As a mom, I could really relate to their concerns and the relief at the opportunity to have a safer option.
We then moved on to the Mkwayule community to see a buildOn/Raising Malawi school which was already completed and in use. We met the village chiefs and the community members who were all so warm and welcoming. They pointed out the area where the children had been learning before the school was built—it was a patch of the schoolyard, under the trees.
What were the people in the villages saying about the schools?
We spoke with the chiefs of the villages. They were so appreciative and thankful… For us, the gratitude was enormous. I was struck by the deep level of community engagement and ownership of the school projects. The involvement of the local community, including local government officials, is critical for these schools to succeed—because success involves more than just building the school – it involves maintaining the school and ensuring that there’s quality education and teacher training. Building schools that fill an immediate need and that will be sustained by the community is exactly what we want to be doing.
Take a look at the photos taken at the groundbreaking ceremonies in Longwe and Mkoma Chilolo: