Rebuilding Mbinzi Initiative Part 2 of 3


Staff of Mbinzi discussing the initiative.
Staff of Mbinzi discussing the initiative.

Nik Bishop (centre) with Head Teacher, Bertha Mpoola (left) and teacher, Andrew
Nik Bishop (centre) with Head Teacher, Bertha Mpoola (left) and teacher, Andrew

Meeting Deloitte (from left) Senior Manager, Manuel Chisale; Makwemba; Partner,
Meeting Deloitte (from left) Senior Manager, Manuel Chisale; Makwemba; Partner,

The following is the second installation of a 3 part write-up documenting the author's experiences implementing a development communication model at a primary school in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Malawi is ranked, by the World Bank, as the poorest country in the world in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. Over half of Malawi’s 16 million population lives on less than a US$1 a day, well below the poverty line. 50 Per cent of that total is estimated to be ultra-poor. This translates to one in every four Malawians living in dire poverty and unable to meet even the minimum daily recommended food intake.

For most, education is the only way to escape poverty. However, while primary education in Malawi is free, schools are plagued by overcrowding, resource shortages, outdated curricula, insufficient teachers and no/substandard sanitation facilities.

The Rebuilding Mbinzi Initiative intends to kickstart one school, Mbinzi Primary School, and thereby create a template for other schools in Malawi.

Rebuilding Mbinzi

In my post of 25 February 2016 entitled “My First Day at School” I highlighted the trying circumstances at Mbinzi Primary School. Every day since, I have gone to school and struggled to accept that 675 children are doomed to this fate but until recently was unsure how to proceed.

It was by happy accident or divine intervention that I landed up Alumni Ambassador for School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and hosted a lunch on 28 February for alumni in Malawi. Three responded but only one turned up… another happy accident.

Over a lunch lasting three hours, the sole attendee, Makwemba Malonje, and I discussed history, politics and development. Behind his pragmatism, I sensed someone with a big heart and so I told him about Mbinzi. A former resident of Area 3, where Mbinzi is located, Makwemba was surprised to hear about the school’s plight. So, I suggested arranging a meeting with the Head Teacher so he could see for himself. He obliged.

On Wednesday, 2 March Makwemba was at the school as promised. We had a meeting with the Head and Deputy teachers, respectively, and agreed to come up with an action plan to develop the school. I also met with the District Education Manager (DEM), Martha Sinete who expressed both her approval for the initiative and her eagerness to support it.

I continue to engage anyone who will listen in the hope of gathering enough like-minded individuals to rebuild Mbinzi. One such group of individuals is the leadership of We Buy Cars (WBC) South Africa. Some of whom are former educators. On 3 March, they extended their support to this initiative and pledged approximately MK900 000 to rebuilding Mbinzi.

On 15 March, Makwemba and I met the management of Deloitte Malawi to inquire if they could assist us in setting up a trust so there is somewhere to channel the funds received from WBC and, hopefully, other sponsors too. We also asked if they could oversee the financial elements of the initiative and thereby ensure transparency and accountability. The proposal was received with interest and enthusiasm and we hope that they will be partners in this endeavor.

The following day, the Director for Bishop Mackenzie International School, Nik Bishop, also joined the small but growing list of 'Friends of Mbinzi'. He visited the school and was touched by the plight of the children and committed to provide assistance in one form or another. Former Head Teacher for Mbinzi, Angeline Mpando has also decided to come out of retirement to support this initiative.

I am now working with Elton Laisi, who was once instrumental in overseeing the development of Mbinzi, in firming up a project proposal and charting the way forward. We are also assessing ways of mobilizing the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and former graduates of Mbinzi.

I can only hope that, as this initiative slowly gains momentum, like-minded individuals will join this initiative and TOGETHER we will carry this effort forward.

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