Ruth’s Story – From Student to Teacher


“I am so proud of my father. He had a vision for future generations in Misomali – not only thinking of my education, but of my children’s education as well.” – Ruth Tanthem
Twenty years ago, a baby girl was born in Malawi’s Misomali village. Her mother would cook and sell food in the community. Her father, Stephen, volunteered his time to help buildOn’s founder Jim Ziolkowski construct the village’s first school, which was also buildOn’s first school in Africa. Jim still remembers holding Ruth’s tiny body in his arms just a few days after she was born. The joy he and Stephen shared that day was unspeakable. Despite the multiple challenges Jim and his small crew faced, the school was completed five months after his arrival in Misomali.

Thanks to the commitment her father made to build Misomali’s first school, Ruth went on to attend primary and secondary school. Today, there are five school blocks in Misomali. Original attendance was just 130. Today, there are over 1,000 students in Misomali. 533 of them are girls, which aligns with buildOn’s present mandate of gender equality in all of its schools. The chief of the village emphasizes that none of it would’ve been possible if not for the ignition of the first school that Stephen and Jim built together.

Ruth’s father, Stephen, expresses the pride he feels in his daughter, “I am an illiterate man, but my daughter is a teacher and she will lift up my family’s name forever.”

Ruth is now a primary school teacher and has a baby girl of her own, who she believes will go even further than she did in her education. She has a strong resolve to see development continue in Misomali and, through the power of education, believes that it will.

Breaking The Cycle

With your support buildOn will work with communities around the world to create safe spaces for education, and unleashing the potential of people like Ruth.