Milonde is a community of 15000 people, spread over ten villages. It is a peasant farming community that sits at the foot of Mount Mulanje in South West Malawi. It has no electricity, no sanitation and water come from hand pumps. The farmers grow Maize, the staple diet, along with onions, tomatoes and root vegetables. If the rains come, they eat. If the rains fail or come as floods, they starve.
Spirit Aid has been working in partnership with the community since 2008. Our head of operations David Hayman, on his first visit, met with all the Chiefs of the ten villages and asked how Spirit Aid could, in partnership with the Community, help develop the resources that would improve the health, education and opportunities for the Young People of their villages. What follows is the result of that meeting.
At the request of the ten Chiefs, we started a feeding programme for the pupils attending the High School. Higher Education in Malawi is not compulsory, or free, as pupils have to pay school fees of £18 per year. In a barter economy that is extremely difficult for most families and leads to many young people leaving school too early to achieve anything. Spirit Aid currently has around fifty scholarships to Milonde High School. We pay the school fees for families that cannot afford them.
Many pupils have to walk up to two hours to reach school without having had a breakfast, followed by two hours walk home for the only meal of the day. We provided a lunch of Maize, Beans and Vegetables. The school role has gone from 280 pupils to 500. Pass marks have gone from an average of 12% to 96%. And over a period of three years, eleven graduates are now primary School teachers working in the area. Four have become Police officers, two Health and Welfare officers and one a Midwife.
We have added new teacher houses and increased the number of staff. We have installed Solar Power in the school enabling pupils to study when night falls at 6 o’clock. Since we supplied computers, teachers and pupils are now being trained in IT skills.
The girl’s dormitory has been improved with lights, windows and better security along with a new kitchen and washroom. Bunk beds were built, twenty-four of them. The girls now have much better living conditions and much-needed privacy.
Milonde High School, regarded as a ‘Bush School’ in Malawi, is now the second highest performing school in the country. The Minister for Education visited the school last year to find out how the remarkable transformation came about, and it’s all down to Lunch!