Maize planting, school holidays, a road with more than 20 hairpin bends and a troupe of inquisitive monkeys are just some of the many challenges facing the special educational needs team, as they plan and implement our programme in Northern Malawi…
The programme funded by the Scottish Government and in partnership with Sense Scotland works in four of the most remote – and at times inaccessible – locations in Northern Malawi. These are the Districts of Chitipa, Karonga, Rumphi and Mzimba South, where we are continuing to develop and deliver our deaf awareness programme.
The programme works directly with deaf and hearing impaired children, their families, teachers, schools and community leaders to remove the stigma surrounding deafness. We encourage and promote the rights of all children to have access to a quality primary education regardless of any special needs.
“Off-roading” with a four-wheel-drive vehicle is a growing hobby here in the UK, but for our local partners delivering our project on the ground in Northern Malawi, it is a necessity and just one more challenge to be overcome.
This map (right) shows some of the areas where we work, but gives a deceptive picture of the scale and sheer distances involved. And it is not just the mileage that needs to be taken into account, but also the road conditions and time needed to reach the locations in daylight for the safety of the team. Not to mention that some roads are completely impassable in the long rainy season, with the only year-round accessible locations directly along the main sealed roads.
The discomfort of travel is minor, but stiff nerves are needed on some roads and complete trust in the skilled drivers, who really do have to drive the car, rather than just cruising in fifth gear.
Steep hills, dirt roads and sheer cliffs are the norm, while the road from Livingstonia down to Lake Malawi descends over 2,000 feet with a staggering 21 hairpin bends!
Local knowledge is vital both for reaching these new communities and in the long-term planning stages of the programme. Working with families and their children, the following questions are just some of the areas to consider:
- How to reach by boat a fishing community which decamps to different areas of the Lake?
- How to avoid offering training sessions on market days (different in each location) or during crop planting and harvesting?
- How to work around school holidays? Schools need to be open for some training sessions and closed for others.
- How to work around the importance of the seasons regarding accessibility to these communities?
This is all part of the ongoing planning for the delivery of our deaf awareness programme, with many more new challenges to be faced.