Odala is a recent graduate of Nsondole Community Day Secondary School, in the rural Zomba District of Malawi, Africa. Generally Odala rises and falls with the sun, he wakes up early in the morning around 5 a.m., makes a little breakfast of porridge and then heads to the school. He studies for 2 to 3 hours before the beginning of the school day participating in study circles, and engaging with the limited resources that exist at the school. While at school, the only food he has throughout the day is a snack. After school, he continues studying until he gets hungry, then he goes home, grabs the water containers, gets water, and goes home to cook. Like many Malawians in his community, he typically eats one meal a day. If he has the energy he will go back to school and study till the sun goes down, if he has even more energy, and the school is able to turn the lights on, he will stay until he’s tired. Because of the unreliable electricity, it’s hard to consistently find a place where he has enough light to study. If the lights are off, he will simply go home, do whatever chores there are around the house, and go to bed on his reed mat and with his thin blanket. The next day starts the routine over again.
Odala had to take government exams after he graduated high school. These exams dictate what job and postsecondary opportunities students will have after high school. He had graduated high school, yet he had not passed the government exams. (You can read Odala's whole story on the Story Time blog at: http://storytimeedu.org/stories/2017/6/28/odalas-brick-to-success.)
Odala is the prime example of students that have major potential but are put at a disadvantage and are underperforming in rural Malawi due to a lack of qualified teachers and educational resources.
Odala’s scores showed that his weakest scores were in Science and Language subjects. This is due to the lack of science labs or resources, like microscopes, test tubes, measuring materials etc. there are no hands on experiences to help students actually understand the subject. As for Language subjects, there are no qualified teachers and no helpful books or study spaces, like a library, where students can go to study. There are also no media tools like computers that can help expand the student's’ world, with things like access to the internet and online learning tools like Khan Academy.
Story Time's Library and Teacher Training Project seeks to change the ending of stories like these. Here at Story Time, we are planning to build a library, that has books and a media center, with trained teachers, to help students learn, and understand subjects they couldn’t before.
If this story inspires you, donate to this project here on our Give to the MAX page, or through our website. Today, your donation goes toward an afternoon to study in a safe, lighted room of helpful resources. Next month, your donation represents something more, as that library is used daily by students in rural Malawi.
That building comes to represent hope and empowerment. Students, like the one you will help with your donation, are facing any number of adversities: from impoverished parents, to grandparents struggling to provide for 6-8 kids, to trying to manage their first periods with no financial help, to grief from a recent death in the family. From these social issues, extraordinarily common in frequency, many students drop out, repeat their year, or fail to complete high school. The graduation rate in Malawi is around 73% overall, and it's between 10-20% in the Zomba District* - the rural area where our partner school is located.
In a country where the mean age is 16.5 years old, the students you help will be leaders in their family, in their community, and in their country, sooner rather than later.Together, we can build a bridge between students in high school and postsecondary opportunities. We can connect scholars from both sides of the globe through our Co-Author community. And we can empower students to take charge of their dreams and ultimately change their lives.
Zikani, Story Time's Vice President and head of operations in Malawi, talks about the unique way educational issues need to be looked at.