In Malawi children officially start school at the age of six in Standard 1 and complete their primary education at the age of thirteen in Standard 8. However, education is not compulsory. Some children start school late and others cannot attend or are not enrolled at all because of lack of resources and family responsibilities. Especially in very poor families, the contribution of children to family chores is essential for survival. Children fetch water at the nearest well, collect wood for cooking, clean the house and much more. All this makes it impossible for them to attend classes. Moreover, though tuition is free in government primary schools, extra costs, such as shoes and uniforms, put education beyond the means of many of the poorest families. Last but not least, government schools are overcrowded. Classes frequently have as many as 100 children of mixed abilities and varying ages.
According to official estimates only 26% of the children complete the entire primary school cycle. For those who manage to pass their final exams in Standard 8 and are selected for a place at secondary school, there follows another four years of studying beginning in Form 1. However, school fees must be paid in all secondary schools. Moreover students usually have to walk long distances to get to them, significantly impacting attendance figures. Many teenagers drop out of school altogether in order to supplement the family income or get married. The national shortage of fully qualified teachers and suitable classrooms sadly results in a generally poor standard of education.
Considering the above, at Marajowi we focus on providing good quality education to all the selected children. In particular, we have decided that the best choice for them was to attend a boarding school not too far from their home village. In this way they could concentrate on their studies, eat 3 meals per day and still keep in touch with their families/communities.