In the late morning we reach and visit the Wukani Education Facility in Mzuzu, where Ramos, Joyce and Witness are currently living and studying. The Principal, the contact person Gresham is referring to all the time, welcomes us warmly. He is a very friendly guy, but still a student himself. As a consequence, we are soon handed over to the School Manager or Headmaster, another extremely kind man. He does not hesitate to answer all our questions about the school and its organization, he shows us the school reports of the students, explains to us the reasons for the increase of the school fees and prints out for us their official overview. Finally he introduces us to all the key people of the organization (i.e. the cashier, the teachers, the responsible people for the dormitories etc). After more than one hour we stop bombarding him with all our questions and we head off together for a tour of the school and its facilities.
The first stop is at the boys’ dormitories: 6 different rooms along a corridor. During the day the doors are kept locked to avoid any theft. Their keys are with the guardian of the whole dormitory, a rather friendly boy in his twenties. The students are divided according to their age and sleep in bunk beds. We visit the dormitory shared by Ramos and Witness. It is rather chaotic since the students keep all their belongings packed either at the bottom of the bed or under it. Neither Ramos nor Witness has bed linens, but only thick wooden blankets. Luckily we brought some bed linens for them! Outside the dormitories there are the toilets and showers, which the students are encouraged to take every day.
We then proceed to the girls’ dormitories, arranged in exactly the same way as the boys’ ones. Here, there is an apparently very efficient woman, the matron, who takes care of the rooms. Moreover, another nice young lady, Naomi, sleeps in the same room together with the youngest ones, like Joyce, to help them with whatever they may need. Joyce’s room is better kept than the boys’ one and she also has linen on her bed. However she still wets her bed during the night, so we are very glad we brought with us an extra set of bed linens for her.
It is now time to go and see the children in their classroom, during the lessons. Each hour is 35min long and from Monday to Thursday the children are busy till 15.30. On Fridays lessons finish at 12. There is also a small computer centre in the school and so each student can get familiar with the PC for 10min/week. During the day the children also have different breaks: at 10 and 15 it is tea-time, whereas they have lunch at 12 and dinner at 17. Their diet consists mostly of nsima (a pap of cassava flour), rice, beans, but also chicken, sardine-like fish and other vegetables.
The first class we visit is Joyce’s one. There are approximately 20 children and two very good teachers are explaining them the body parts and the 5 senses in a very creative way. All the children respond very well and the lesson is definitely interactive. Joyce is obviously a bit embarrassed by our presence but every now and then she takes part too. After the lesson we have some time to speak with her teacher who tells us that when Joyce joined the school she could hardly write her name, that is why she was sent back to Standard 1. Now she is in Standard 2 and she is still struggling to get to the same (English) level as the other kids, but since the school year is just started she has good hopes. Her English has already dramatically improved, which will hopefully help her in picking up also all the rest.
We then move to Standard 5, the class where Ramos is in. Here there are approximately 30 kids and the lesson of Agriculture is ongoing. As soon as he sees us, Ramos digs his head into his exercize book and starts writing a lot. Also in this case, at the end of the lesson we have a word with the teachers who, as in the case of Joyce, tells us that Ramos is rather behind as compared to the rest of the class, but he is confident he will manage to catch up with the rest.
At last we go to Standard 4, the class of Witness, where the lesson of Story telling is ongoing. This class is used to teach some ethic to the children. Also here there are approximately 30 kids, but the class is soon going to be split in two, since the number of students is too large. Our presence makes Witness freeze in embarrassment and so we quickly leave the class. Also in this case, the teacher later tells us that Witness has to catch up a lot still, since the only subject he excels in is Bible Knowledge.
Fun time with the kids
Once the classes are finished it is time to spend some time with Ramos, Joyce and Witness. They arrive running in no time and seem to be extremely happy to see us. We can easily talk in English with all of them, which is a very pleasant surprise. We spend most of the time together, discovering the presents we have for them, having fun with and in front of the camera and also listening to their difficulties at the school because of the material they are still missing (i.e. pens, exercize books, books covers etc.). Luckily most of these things are in the presents we brought for them. We decide however also to arrange for the new uniform with the cashier, since we don’t want them to be too different from the other kids of the school.
We definitely need to go if we want to be back in Nkhata Bay before dark, but the children do not seem to be of the same opinion. At the end we agree that we will go after having put the new bed linens on their beds. However, we promise them that we will come back on Sunday and spend again the whole day with them.