After much time pondering over how to fill the long summer break, I stumbled across teaching in Malawi and saw this as a great opportunity. Having a friend who had been before, I was given the perfect insight into an experience I couldn’t resist. This summer I spent 2 and a half months in Malawi. Situated in southern east Africa, Malawi is a landlocked country, consisting of a friendly, outgoing and passionate population as well as a diverse local culture. Recent findings reveal Malawi as the poorest country in the world.
The majority of my time in ‘the warm heart of Africa’ was spent in the Mulanje district, in the south of the country, not far from the border with Mozambique, and about an hour’s drive from Blantyre, one of the three major cities in Malawi.
I was excited about teaching at Nansato primary school but also slightly apprehensive, and I was unsure how I would cope leading a class of 120 Malawian children. At the beginning, I was an assistant teacher. Malawian primary school goes from standard 1 to standard 8. I was teaching standard 7, where most lessons are taught in English, with the exception of the local language, Chichewa. After the first week the standard 8 pupils had finished their exams, which left another classroom vacant, meaning the standard 7 class split into two classes of 60, and I had a class to myself. Malawian primary schools are different in that a pupil cannot progress to the next year until they pass examinations. In my standard 7 class, the age range was 12 to 19. Contrary to popular opinion, all pupils, regardless of age, behaved impeccably 99% of the time, and their enthusiasm and desire to learn is both astonishing and humbling.
On top of the teaching, in the afternoons I tutored pupils, in preparation for their examinations, and in doing so, I was able to form close bonds and relationships with families. I also had the opportunity to play for the local football team, and I was the first Mzungu (white person) ever to play in the district league, which merited an interview on a national radio station.
It was terribly emotional saying goodbye. I received many farewell songs and traditional dances on my last day in the school, along with many gifts and letters which I will treasure for life. This trip has put my life into perspective and made me thankful for everything that I have. I have never met people who have so little, yet offer so much at any possible opportunity, out of pure generosity of spirit and politeness. I want to make a difference to these people’s lives and it is only a matter of time before my love and admiration for the Malawian people, and particularly, the people of Mulanje, take me back to this beautiful and remarkable country.
I would like to thank the Go Abroad fund for giving me this wonderful opportunity and an experience I will never forget!