I'm delighted that Christina, the Afrogarden manager with whom I have been working in Malawi, came to the UK in early February to talk about future plans.
We will start next week on repairing the roofs of 2 large school blocks at Mlirakhunda School, and I hope 2 similar roofs at Mvunguti. I inspected them in July last year. The old concrete tiles have become degraded and there are now large holes through which water pours in the rainy season. The Primary Education Adviser in Mpasa has also asked if we could fund another new school block at Mwanazanga School - there are still 3 classes there without classrooms - and thanks to our very generous donors, we now have enough money to be able to do that. There is a great photo of the 2 new blocks here.
Of course, MSP is still paying school fees at the secondary school from the funds it has raised (see school fees) and I have also decided to restructure and restart the primary schools incentive scheme which we ran on a trial basis last year, giving exercise books and pens to those who attend regularly and do well.
We have longer term ambitions too.
- Most of the schools in the Mpasa area have little or no furniture: the children sit on the floor. A local supplier could make desks for 3 with attached benches for about £20, and we hope we can afford to equip at least some of the classrooms. It would bring work to the carpenters in the area too.
- Christina has undertaken to do a small study into the feasibility of making washable sanitary pads for girls at school whose families cannot afford them: without sanitary protection, the girls simply don't go to school. Would that we could afford to distribute disposable pads to all those who need them, but it's simply unaffordable.
- And we are looking into the feasibility of setting up a book bus, to travel between schools, to provide a basic library service for them. We think we have the staff. Now all we need is a bus and the books, and the money to pay for it all!
I will be going to Malawi again at the end of April, and I hope I can take some of these ideas forward. Watch this space!