Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Dzalanyama Primary School

I've got my usual post expedition lurgy, which is incredibly frustrating, but is allowing me some time to catch up on writing and go through my photographs from my recent return visit to Malawi. I'll try and get them up here over the next few days.  Here is my first installment. If you have any questions about Malawi as a travel destination, please do get in touch. As last year, it was a wonderful journey, across a country that I love, filled with kind and generous people that are fast becoming friends.
We flew in to Lilongwe at the beginning of the month, to a warm welcome from Tom and Janey at Mabuya Camp. "We" being a small team of students from Arran High School, their teachers, and myself, their expedition leader, working on behalf of Outlook Expeditions. Lilongwe served as a platform for a short visit to the Ministry of Hope Crisis Nursery, where orphaned children from precarious backgrounds are taken in, and cared for until they are weaned and able to be returned to their families, or placed with foster families. Here the students learned about the risks that tiny babies face, including the hazards of childbirth, HIV and poverty- each putting their precarious lives in danger from the word go. We also experienced first hand the love and dedication of the care-givers at the nursery, who strive to give the babies a strong start in life. MoH also run a second crisis nursery at Mzuzu in the north of the Malawi, and a operate a mobile clinic service too.

From Lilongwe we travelled to Dzalanyama Forest Reserve, where a village primary school is in urgent need of support. Our task was to rennovate an old staffroom to turn it in to a library for staff and students. Time was short, so the students worked incredibly hard, painting and building bookshelves, under the watchful eye of the headmaster and his students. The school lacks many basic amenities, and is in a sorry state of repair. We would have liked to have done much more. The teachers were on strike, having not been paid since the start of the financial year. The children still came to school however, giving the place a topsy turvy air, with riotous kids running around the quad all day while the teachers sat in the headmaster's office. Even under these strange circumstances, we received a warm welcome from staff and students. The headmaster outlined to us the urgent needs of the school, from sports equipment to exercise books, and solar panels to classroom furniture. Last year I helped build a boys dormitory, but this still isn't being used as they don't have the money to build the toilets.

Just as I was feeling quite downhearted about the situation, I met Benson, a former learner at the school,  back in the village for the holidays, currently studying Pharmacology at university in the city. Possibilities are here, if only young people get the help they need.

There isn't much scope for scratching a living in the Forest Reserve. One way the local make ends meet is by cutting firewood and then cycling the 65km to the city to sell it.  Deforestration is a pressing environmental concern in Malawi.

Everywhere we went, we were escorted by curious children who held our hands and laughed at our strange manners. 

The crazy, lovely children of Dzalanyama Primary School. They are just like kids anywhere really, except the they have a lot less of everything.

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