One afternoon while at Josophat Mwale Theological Institute, I was chatting with another teacher (the principal’s wife) who mentioned that when she was studying in Zomba, her home would be checked each month to see if it was sanitary. So…perhaps I’ll have to randomly visit the ladies’ houses. Wives of pastors and theological school teachers teach the classes at the women’s school. Which means that they have few teachers.
There is only one paid teacher for the women’s school. She is the one who translates for me. It has been fun getting to know her, and to hear her story. She is a widowed pastor’s wife and, because she has a university degree, can teach at the college. Therefore, she always encourages the women to finish their education, and then go on for more.
One of the difficulties in Malawi is that funding is so low that across the country that there are few spots at colleges and universities. People often apply for several years until there is an opening—Just another challenge in a developing country. Actually many of the educated people I’ve met went elsewhere for their schooling: South Africa, Europe, even to the US. The Nkhoma Synod is working to open a university, which would offer more people an opportunity to further their education. Nevertheless, as with everything, things move at a snail’s pace.
As for primary school, it is better than it used to be. In talking with a few people here, I have been hearing that the education for young children has improved. About thirty to forty years ago only boys went to school, few girls attended and even fewer finished and went on to secondary school. This means there are many illiterate adults, or self-taught adults actually.
From what I have learned, if a school is built, the government will send teachers. But will they maintain it? No. Unfortunately, schools end up being over-crowded because more children, both girls and boys are attending. Also, because of the small number of spots in higher education, not enough teachers are being trained. In the schools, promotion is based on exams. Students advance to the next year when they pass the exam. I have heard here and there where a parent will ask if a student can be put into the next class, even though they haven’t passed the test. This is understandable, especially when the child hasn’t passed in a while and is older than the other students in the class.
Both children and adults seem very hungry to learn. I have noticed this in the various settings I have been teaching. Therefore, the willingness is here. It’s just the money, school facilities, and skilled professionals that are lacking. There of course are all of the problems that come into the picture of this being a developing country. I don’t know if in time change will come, my optimistic side does believe that it will whereas my cynical mind does not see that drastic change will come in my lifetime.