Tag Archives: girls

While Discussing Finances

By Kassandra Norrie (Acadia)

The wonderful well

The wonderful well

I sat as a guest today in a circle of chiefs who were meeting outside under a tree to discuss Praxis Malawi. As I waited for the discussion to be translated to me from their native language of Chechewa I watched the faces of the men. I knew the topics being covered and I could follow along if I paid close attention because English words were often added into sentences when there was not an equivalent Chechewa translation. By watching the faces of the men around me I could see which chiefs were agreeing or questioning the points being discussed.

Beyond the men in the circle there was a well that women were occasionally coming to use, and then continuing along their paths with a heavy bucket of water balanced on their heads. After a few women caused me to look up from the meeting I noticed that they always came and left with the same pail, yet maybe twenty or so buckets and pails were strewn across the ground around the well.

Some time later the after school program being led by Praxis Malawi members across the road from me finished and a group of young girls ran up to the well. I continued to focus on my meeting, but I was distracted by what I had just realized. The buckets and pails had not been abandoned at the well, but rather these girls had dropped them off on their way to school that morning. These girls had gone to school all day, participated in the after school program, and now as the sun was setting they had to fetch water before going home.

It took close to an hour for all of the buckets and pails to be filled, but the girls all stayed and worked together as a team. They took turns pumping the well (sometimes three at a time for the youngest), shuffling the pails under the waterspout, and playing off to the side. Girls could have easily taken their pail home once it was filled but they remained a team. The first girls to leave were the few with babies tied to their backs. Three girls lifted the heavy buckets onto their friends’ heads, then waved and sang usiku wabwino (goodbye) as girls expertly balanced buckets and walked away. Once all the pails were filled, they worked together again to lift all of the pails onto each other’s heads before walking away in all directions of the many paths.

All of these girls were elementary school aged. When I was that age, my only responsibilities were to do homework and play nicely with my siblings. These girls spent their day at school, did extra work in the after school program, and then worked as a team to fill pails of water to carry home. It took more than an hour of labour after a long day to bring home an element so natural and vital that we get so simply by turning a tap.

An Idea Without Foundation

By Aaron Thornell (St. FX)

Getting a girl into the game

Getting a girl into the game

After only a couple of nights in Malawi, many of my pre-trip fears have been put to rest. While the country has been like nothing I have ever seen or experienced before, I still feel as though, so far, most of my concerns were based off of misrepresentations of the country which I had been exposed to prior to my arrival. A large reason for my high comfort level has been due to the genuine friendliness of the vast majority of Malawians. I have been feeling welcomed almost everywhere I have been, and in large part this has been due to the hospitality of the Malawian population. Additionally, the natural beauty of this country continues to amaze me, and had aided to allay many doubts.

This is not to say, however, that my first few days here have not been without such doubts, negative emotions and lingering anxiety. A great deal of these continue to be, as they were before our departure, associated with the work I will be taking on here. Going into the Praxis Malawi opportunity, I was feeling very anxious about what skills and knowledge I would be bringing, as I desired to play a productive role within the planning of the sports/soccer field process. Following our first tour of the campus, however, this anxiety remains. The area that is likely to be used for the field is still extremely overgrown, and upon seeing this, I was struck that my knowledge in the realm of land clearing is all but non-existent. I fought to quickly rid myself of such nervousness, however, and found comfort in the support of many of the community members with whom I will be working with.

One constant I am banking on amidst all these concerns is that learning opportunities will come, quickly and often, and nothing could be more exciting. Whether it is through private conversation with community members, or open discussion with my peers, I have had no shortage of information to absorb, and I am still attempting to process the majority of it.

One very interesting example (in my mind), was a discussion with a community member concerning the popularity of various sports here in Malawi. As was my guess, football is the most popular. It is followed by net-ball, which from what I understand, is a similar sport to basketball. The interesting information came when I noted that I saw only boys playing football and only girls playing net-ball. This reality was confirmed by the community member, and when I brought this up with Dr. Stonebanks, he offered a likely explanation. Until 1994 and the advent of democratic elections, women were not allowed to wear pants, only ankle-long skirts. This wear would in all likelihood restrict the mobility needed for the game of football, but allows one to still participate in a sport like net-ball. Despite this divide, the community member explained to me that significant attempts were being made to encourage girls to enrol in football teams, although he did not speak to boys playing net-ball.

Visiting Schools: Another Look at Making Learning Accessible and Relevant to All Students

By Lia Grant (McGill University)

June 2nd, 2014

Classroom visit

Classroom visit

Today was a very eye-opening day. We visited two schools: a primary school which was separated into boys-only and girls-only sections, and a secondary school. As a future educator, I had a great desire to actually visit a classroom to observe the teaching and learning that was going on. Unfortunately, this was not really an option; especially as us all coming to the schools caused so much excitement for the students. We did, however, have the chance to speak with the headmaster of each school, along with many of the teachers. While a number of the educators seemed very interested in the project, an equal portion of them seemed hesitant to the change we were discussing. Despite this, we did receive a great deal of useful input and important ideas that we hope to implement in the schools on the Praxis Malawi campus.

More specifically, when we were at the girls’ school, we had a conversation with the headmaster and several of the teachers about what problems they noticed in their school, and what things they would like to see implemented in the new curriculum that we are developing for the new school in the campus. One thing that interested me immensely that came out of this conversation is that one of the teachers asked me, “What are your ideas in regards to students who drop out of school?” I responded in return with my own question: “Do you notice more girls or more boys dropping out in your school?” All the teachers unanimously responded to me that it was primarily young girls, and that the reason for dropping out was often due to pregnancy (either in or out of “wedlock”). The questions that I asked in turn were, “Are these young girls/women allowed to continue school while they are pregnant?” and “Can they continue once they have delivered their baby?” What one teacher explained to me was that girls who become pregnant without getting married are shunned from the community, and are too embarrassed to attend school until after they give birth.

Curriculum conversation

Curriculum conversation

With this in mind, I think that implementing a school/classroom in the Praxis Malawi campus for young girls and women who had to drop out of secondary or even primary school would be imperative. Moreover, if the school welcomed girls who are pregnant, it would possibly even help in taking the stigma away from these women, showing the people that they have nothing to be ashamed of and still have the right to their education and their life.

I left the school visits with so many questions to think over, and so many ideas. I am really looking forward to getting started in the next few days on the curriculum and possibly on the continued planning for the schools on the campus in general.