(Guest written by Ruth Banda, daughter of Coafrica Local Coordinator Goodwell Banda)
Chilima primary school is located a few kilometers away from Bondo village, isolated from the prospects of a busy city life. It was established in the ‘90s in a small village called Sapulayi. Chilima is surrounded by the most amazing natural scenery. The community has done a wonderful job preserving its nature from the destructive essence of man.
The school has six classrooms, two shades, one outdoor classroom and six toilets. Unlike Bondo primary school, teachers here have more decent structures to call homes. Chilima happens to be the central primary school/learning center encompassing students from at least thirty-nine villages. It baffles my understanding how hundreds of students congregate every school day in classrooms that should only occupy at least thirty learners.
Congestion affects learning to great lengths. With the Covid-19 pandemic taking root in our society, social distancing is hard to practice in such congested classrooms. This puts the teachers in grave danger as it is the nature of their job to make contact with the little ones who may be carriers of the virus. Students also risk contracting illnesses such as influenza, colds and sinus infections. Generally, congested areas are hard to maintain. Six toilets are not enough to host that many students.
The school is no different from most rural Malawian primary schools, as students learn whilst seated on the cold floors, straining their backs and necks. I can only imagine how dirty their school uniforms are every day after school from sitting on dirty cracked floors. The walls are covered with crevices and washed out whitewash, the doors and window frames are empty and the unfinished exterior qualifies these structures as unfinished buildings.
The two most recent buildings are occupied by the senior learners. The teachers saw to it that the senior learners should occupy the newer buildings as a way to motivate the junior learners to work harder. Although the buildings are well roofed and floored, the walls are now forming cracks.
The lack of adequate buildings pressed the school committee to have students learn under the tree shade as they wait to build another classroom. The growing number of students increases the challenge even further. Learning outside has repercussions such as dismissal of classes when threatened by harsh weather, low attention span as students watch passersby and absconding classes as it is harder for teachers to control learners.
I commend the community for putting together their resources in order to build the present structures. Through these structures, students have been selected to go to various secondary schools the past twenty-three years.
The headmaster at this school, Alexious Chikakula, in collaboration with the development committee, presented a school improvement plan to build a classroom Malawi limited for assistance hence this writing.