TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES THROUGH EDUCATION INFRASTRUCTURE
The lack of adequate resources, such as classrooms, accommodation for teachers, teaching and learning materials (text books and desks), toilets, portable water sources and power outages, are at the top of the list of problems schools in Malawi face. Thus, the quality of education is negatively affected, with high school drop- out rates, low retention and transition rates.
Mkoma and Malikha Primary schools, like any other schools in Malawi, face several challenges.The Mkoma and Malikha Schools Improvement Project is being implemented in the Central Region of Malawi under the Plan International Malawi, Lilongwe Programme Area. With a total portfolio of EUR 810,000 over a three years’ period from June 2017 to June 2020, the project is funded by the German National Office.The average student at Mkoma and Malikha Primary School walks 3.5 km to school and teachers travel between 15km to 30 km as some live in townships due to inadequate housing in rural areas.
Having to travel long distances every day, learners struggle to concentrate in classes and teachers deliver lessons with fatigue. At present, Mkoma Primary School has renovated 16 of its classrooms, translating to a pupil/permanent classroom ratio of 161:1, with 6 classrooms having been recently completed and are yet to be used.
Sanitation facilities are another issue at Mkoma Primary School. Before the project commenced, there was only one block for girls which had 10 drop holes, with boys having 2 blocks with 4 drop holes each, making a total of 18 drop holes.
The female students had a ratio of 128:1 and for male students, 162:1, which violates the sanitation policy of 10:1 for female students and 20:1 for male students. The existing block was in a poor state, compromising the safety and hygiene of the learners. The project has now constructed 2 latrine blocks for girls, with 10 drops holes, one being disability friendly, with 2 change rooms and 2 urinals. The boys have one latrine block, with 5 drop holes including one disability friendly and 1 urinal.
Malikha Primary School had 10 classrooms with lighting and ventilation problems, as well as chipped floors. The Schools Improvement project renovated all 10 classrooms with functioning ventilation; lit with steel honey combed windows, complete floors and freshly painted.
The project has led to the construction of 4 new classroom blocks which are benefitting students in Grade 3, 7 and 8, totalling 50 students, with 243 boys and 261 girls. Malikha Primary School previously had a learner/teacher ratio of 65:1, with 23 teachers, 17 of which were female and 6 were male, against 1,504 learners. Now, it has an enrolment of 1,512 learners, 761 male students and 751 female students, with a learner/teacher ratio of 66:1.Out of the teachers at Malikha Primary School, 8 of the 25 reside at the school. Other learners and teachers experience the same problem as those from Mkoma Primary School, that of fatigue. Students and teachers travel an average distance of 5km to 15 km every day, resulting in poor concentration levels and delivering lessons ineffectively because of tiredness.
Before the project was implemented, Malikha Primary School only had 2 pit latrine blocks, one for female students and one for male students, comprised of 3 rooms and thus giving a ratio of 242:1 for girls and 260:1 for boys.
At present, the project has constructed 1 more latrine block that has 3 drop holes, including one that is disability friendly, 1 change room and 1 urinal for girls, and 1 block for boys with 4 drop holes, with one being disability friendly and 1 urinal.
The improvement in sanitary facilities have brought latrine ratios to 109:1 and 125:1 for male and female students respectively.
The key project interventions of the Mkoma and Malikha School Improvement are infrastructure development, promotion of quality learning through capacity building of community committees, raising awareness and building capacity on gender equality issues and their impact on students and to strengthen Child rights clubs and Child protection mechanisms at school and within communities.
The Mkoma and Malikha Primary School Improvement project has resulted in several achievements to date. The female students are already making use of the 5 newly constructed pit latrine blocks, 3 changing rooms and 5 urinals.
Despite building 8 new teachers’ houses, with 3 at Malikha Primary School and 5 at Mkoma Primary School, only 2 of those houses are currently occupied as a result of water shortages in the area. The project is working with the community to address the water shortage issues. They are looking to invest in a new pump and fixing an existing pump with maximum security for the newly constructed teachers’ houses.
The initiative to install of water reticulation systems at Mkoma and Malika Primary Schools was met with the challenge of vandalism of the solar water pump that had been installed by FISD. The existing water reticulation system constructed by FISD had put in place stand pipes, water storage tanks and pipe work into the newly constructed houses.
Students and teachers at Mkoma Primary face a new challenge in accessing safe water from an existing borehole in the area. Rain water harvesting systems are being installed as a short-term solution to the lack of access to safe water. To resolve the problem, contractors were engaged to install a water reticulation system and to drill holes at depths of 45 and 65 meters. Alternatively, the real solution might lie in exploring the possibility of tapping water from the Lilongwe Water Board main line in the area.
Currently, 4 of the newly constructed classroom blocks of the 10 which were constructed by the project are in use, these are located at Malikha Primary School. While at Mkoma Primary School, its 6 new classrooms have only been recently completed and are yet to be occupied.
To create a conducive environment for learning and teaching, 13 classrooms have been rehabilitated with good ventilation and lighting, with 5 at Malikha and 8 at Mkoma Primary Schools.
The project has built the capacity of 30 members of the school governance structures, equipping them with skills to monitor the progress, demand accountability and find sustainable ways of maintaining the project. Thus, the School Management Committees, Parent Teacher Associations and Mother Groups have now been empowered to monitor the construction work daily.
The school governance structures in coordination with school Environmental clubs raised and managed to plant 10,000 seedlings at their schools (5000 for each school). The students were actively involved in the planting of trees and tending to their growth.
The newly revamped Environmental and Child Rights Clubs at Mkoma and Malikha Primary Schools will be tackling issues of climate change, adaptations and child rights. The clubs also sensitize the communities in the area on child abuse issues and preventative measures.