buildOn breaks ground on first school built in partnership with Raising Malawi and Ministry of Education

Kankhumbwa woman signs covenant with thumbprint. - Photo by Esther Havens

One month ago today, in the village of Kankhumbwa, buildOn broke ground on the first school constructed in partnership with Raising Malawi and Malawi’s Ministry of Education.  The two-room school will provide access to education for more than 100 children in the Kasungu District of Malawi.

Malawi’s Ministry of Education had identified the school as number one on its list of neediest villages in Kasungu District.  The location for the school was chosen because of the state of the existing school infrastructure as well as the deep commitment to education from the community.

“The village of Kankhumbwa was in desperate need of a new school,” said Jim Ziolkowski, Founder & CEO of buildOn. “The luckiest children in the community are learning in a dilapidated structure with only a poorly thatched roof for protection, the least lucky have their classes outside with no shelter but the shade of a tree. If the weather is poor, the students aren’t able to have class at all. The Malawian government identified building this school as priority and we are honored to fill this need.”

For every buildOn school, the partnering community and buildOn sign a covenant stating each party’s contribution to the project.  The covenant states that buildOn provides the engineering, materials, skilled labor and project supervision for the school.  The community provides a gender-equal leadership team, voluntary unskilled labor, land for the school, local materials and a promise that girls and boys must be sent to school in equal numbers. The teachers for the school and the curriculum are provided by Malawi’s Ministry of Education.

The response to the school from the village of Kankhumbwa was overwhelming.  More than 400 community members lined up to sign the covenant; nearly half were women.

“The school will bring one heart and soul to the entire village,” said Felicia, a grandmother and community member of Kankhumbwa.  “All will be dedicated to education.  I was so happy the day we signed the covenant. I wished I was young again so I could attend that school, but I know any day I can die.  I want to die in peace knowing that my grandson and granddaughters will have education and a better future.”

buildOn was privileged to be joined at the covenant signing by Malawian Ministry of Education officials Wiseman Moyo, Desk Officer for the District Education Manager; Isaac Phiri, Coordinator for Primary Education; Olive Panyanja, District Labor Officer; and Patrick Zintambira, the Primary Education Advisor for the Zone where the school is being constructed.

To date, community members have contributed more than 850 volunteer work days on the site and construction is three days ahead of schedule.

Since 2001, buildOn has completed 54 primary schools in Malawi. buildOn will build ten schools in partnership with Raising Malawi through Summer 2013.