Visiting Malawi: Strengthening Inclusive Education
In the warm heart of Africa, we finally got the opportunity to visit our team in Malawi after the pandemic had postponed the trip multiple times over the past couple of years. We were greeted by Thomas (project manager) and his recognisable smile which instantly made us at home. In truth, it was difficult not to feel at home, given that most people we met opened with the phrase 'Welcome, feel at home here'. Our first destination was Kasungu, and we would be staying in the Kasungu Inn for the next two nights. The purpose of this journey was clear - to see the work we are so proud of in person and reinforce our commitment to inclusive education in the central region in Malawi.
A Warm Welcome and Stakeholder Meeting
The moment we set foot in Kasungu, we were welcomed by the PAETMA (Promoting Equal Access to Education in Malawi) team. Our first night in Malawi was marked by a joyful dinner with the team. The dawn of our first full day brought us to an essential event - a stakeholder meeting. Here, Thomas eloquently reintroduced our project to local duty bearers in the Kasungu area.
At the meeting we met local officials, including the Director of Education, and representatives from other charities working in the region, such as Build on, Plan International, and World Vision. The purpose was simple and engaging - to reintroduce local duty bearers to our new project in Malawi.
The Director of Education opened the meeting with words of praise and unwavering support for our project. Thomas then presented an informative overview of our work, and the response was heartening. The respect and admiration for our team's dedication were evident in the room.
While the project received immense support, it was also a moment for constructive feedback from stakeholders. This was a valuable discussion that the team will use to inform project implementation.
Thupa Primary School Visit
Our journey then led us to Thupa Primary School, where the warmth and enthusiasm of parents and learners welcomed us. An assembly was held with speeches from key figures, including Atsupelle, Ally, the PEA, and the Headteacher. Learners showcased their talents through songs, dances, and poetry, celebrating the spirit of inclusive education. The Parent Support Group's performance demonstrated the sustainable impact of our project by generating income through goats funded by the project's seed money.
During our journey, we had the privilege of visiting two schools: Loukaloldzi and Tipate. The headteachers at these schools spoke of the transformative impact of our project on learners with disabilities. The collaborative effort of teachers, parents, and the community was evident in the positive changes brought about by our project.
Our final project visit led us to a rural village, where we engaged with various stakeholders in a communal village hall. The open day was well-attended and included headmasters, students, village heads, PEAs, Parent Support Groups, and Peer Educators. The event featured performances illustrating inclusive education through singing, poetry, and a play. The collective commitment to the project's goals was evident in the words of the headmaster, the PSG secretary, and the PSG chairman. The group village headman introduced by-laws to ensure that every child with a disability attended school.
Visiting the CCAP Offices
Our journey continued to Mzuzu, where we met with other staff within CCAP. We were able to convey the significance of our project to the Director of the Education Department, Joseph emphasising its importance to Signal.
In the afternoon, Thomas led a project review and planning session. The extensive knowledge and passion of the District Coordinators shone through, offering a glimpse of the potential for further projects.
Our journey to Malawi was a testament to the power of collaboration and the transformative impact of locally-led projects. We return with renewed commitment and a vision for the future, to continue strengthening inclusive education in Malawi. The smiles, the songs, and the welcoming spirit of Malawi have left an indelible mark on us, inspiring us to do even more for the children and learners of the schools we work in.