Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Couple Friends Looking For Help With Fees

In my last blog I mentioned two teachers looking for assistance in furthering their education, this blog is to provide more information about them. But first I would like to reiterate my concerns with this situation. I agreed to help these two teachers look for financial assistance after their persistent inquiries, but I don’t want this to open the flood gates inviting everybody with the inclination to come to me asking for sponsors. In Malawi just like in America if somebody shows their academic prowess there is tremendous opportunity to receive government assistance or private sponsored scholarships. Though neither of these two men were strong enough in school to earn scholarships they are both already teachers, and it is my hope that by helping them to advance their education than it will raise the level of education in Mwazisi’s struggleing school. One of my primary fears is that once they achieve their desired degrees they will move on to a more prestigious school, and the brain drain in Mwazisi just continues. All I can do is just keep on encouraging people to take ownership of their home village and invest themselves into its sustained development.

Again I don’t want people to see me (their azungu) as a mere source of money. I know there will be more significant and far-reaching things for my friends back home to put their money towards as my projects develop, and the Peace Corps has organized better and tax deductible avenues for friends and family to provide project assistance. So please don’t anybody feel inclined to cover my friends entire tuition. I am encouraging them to continue seeking alternative means to fund their own schooling, because as I said before I think people take their education far more serious when they are financially invested in it. In both cases my friend’s tuition is over 150,000 Malawian Kwatcha, which is over $1,000. This is why I’m reaching out to a larger audience, asking people to chip in bit by bit, instead of asking just a few friends to pay it all in one lump some. Neither of these men will be starting school until next year at the earliest. So if people are interested than they can help by raising a little money here and there at their local church groups, or rotary clubs. Then when the time rolls around to pay tuition if a lot of people chip in just a little bit it should add up to take a big chunk out of the tuition they have to pay. As with many things I’m doing I don’t know if this is the best way to go about this, but I have found that is generally best to just dive in head first, themn shore up the problems as they pop up. Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where all the fruit is? That being said, here are my friends.

Mike Kayera
The first of my friends who is looking for help with paying his school fees is the Head Master at Mwazisi Community Day Secondary School, which is the school I am currently teaching at. His name is Mike Aaron Kayira and despite being the head teacher at our school, he only has a teaching certificate with no advanced education. To improve his teaching abilities Mr. Kayira is hoping to continue his education and obtain a diploma in Theology through the Theological Education by Extension in Malawi (TEEM) program. Bible Knowledge is a required course in Malawian schools and is the subject Mr. Kayira primarily teaches. I think most of you know that I am a strong believer in America’s division between church and state, but I think some of my more religious family members might find this compelling.

All secondary students have to take the Malawi School Certificate of Education Exam (MSCE) in order to get their secondary school certificate. At least a score of fifty is required to pass (the lower the score the better, making an eight an exemplary score). Mr. Kayira scored a thirty-five on his exam which is average, and is barely high enough to sit for the Malawi University Entrance exams, and is certainly not high enough to receive any sort of scholarships. Though his MSCE scores are mediocre he passed the Entrance exams and has been accepted into the TEEM program.

When I asked Mr. Kayira what his future plans were for after achieving a higher degree he replied “It is my great desire to eventually be a lecturer at one of the universities in Malawi. I also want to do pastoral work in Malawi to address perennial problems such as HIV/AIDS and counseling for victim’s families.”

Next I asked him how will the continuation of your personal education benefit the local community and Malawi as a whole? Mr. Kayira replied, “It will enable counseling and guiding on Biblical issues to help families through the problems they encounter in everyday life, and preach the gospel of salvation. The impact for the nation will be to impart knowledge to students, and to promote theological studies.”

I know Mr. Kayira very well, his wife is my Chitumbuka teacher and I consider his entire family to be my friends. While teaching in Mwazisi he and Mrs. Kayira are supporting a very large family with four girls and two boys. The oldest girl graduated from Pwezi Girls Secondary School (one of the top private schools in the country) while his two boys are both currently going to very good private schools, and his standard 6 daughter, Mauka just tested at the top of her class and will most likely be going to a top notch secondary school. I can say that Mr. Kayera is ambitious almost to a fault, and will certainly focus his full efforts on achieving his desired degree.

P.F. Nyasulu
The second of my friends asking for help in finding funding for school is Mr. Penjani Fredrick Nyasulu and he is also a teacher at the CDSS. He would like to pursue a degree in Food and Nutrition at the University of Malawi in Zomba Chancellor College. When I asked him about his future plans, he said he planned to continue teaching at the secondary level and hopes to inform students more on how they can address perennial problems such as poverty, malnutrition, food and taboos.

When I asked him what the benefit of his degree to the local community and Malawi as a whole would be, he replied as a qualified teacher of food and nutrition I can provide students with the knowledge to establish nutritional related services in the rural areas to save the nutritionally handicapped people. I will be able to equip them with the knowledge of appropriate technology for preparing and processing food for supporting a more healthy lifestyle. With greater knowledge of food and nutrition I can inform the People of Mwazisi about which locally found foods are most nutritious and need to be supplemented into the daily meals regularly to prevent diseases of malnutrition.

Mr. Nyasulu is 35 years old and is the father of four children. Aside from being a teacher, he also keeps a grocery in the local trading center. He has been very friendly to me since my arrival, and invites me to have a Fanta with him nearly every time I walk past his store. He is a strong teacher and I think he would make the most out of furthering his education