Rebuilding Mbinzi Initiative Part 3 of 3

The following is the third 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 However, while primary education in Malawi is free, schools are plagued by overcrowding, resource shortages, outdated curricula, insufficient teachers and no/substandard sanitation facilities.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.

Charting a New Course for Development

School closed on Thursday, 29 March. Children received their reports and made the most of their rudimentary surroundings to mark the end of the school term by putting on performances. The top three students in each grade were recognised for their accomplishment and awarded an exercise book.

I knew until the conditions at the school improved considerably there would be no holiday for me. This past week Deloitte gave their commitment to set up and manage the trust for a period of one year on a pro bono basis. So, I spent time speaking and/or meeting the potential board members.

As the momentum grows I realise that energy, if not channelled properly, can be to our detriment rather than benefit. Zeal leads us to choose the methods we've used before. In haste we fail to consider that unless we question these methods, change the way 'we do development' we will not truly succeed.

As I traverse the labyrinth that is development, I am mindful of Confucius’ words “study the past if you would define the future”. So, I spend time with community members... listening. Sometimes I arrive at dead ends and mostly I feel lost but always I am reminded never to underestimate both the power and complexity of development.

Achieving (a degree) of success is easy, I think. We compensate by saying we’re not where we intended but at least we’re not where we were. But is it enough? It is with this in mind that I wrote to the District Education Manager (DEM), Martha Sinete proposing a development communication model for Mbinzi Primary School.

In it I suggest a slow(er) pace drawing a detailed map, collectively deciding on the destination and charting the course with the humility and respect development deserves. I will now try to sell the idea to the stakeholders.

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