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Jun 24, 2016

Firsthand Observations from a Volunteer in Malawi

Wilson in his school uniform
Wilson in his school uniform

Hello from Malawi! My name is Carly and I am on the Board of Directors for EKARI Foundation. I had the pleasure of visiting Phalombe, Malawi in June, where EKARI operates. I was able to speak with some of the students that EKARI sponsors, as well as observe the education system and the general living conditions. I interviewed three students who have participated in EKARI’s Tutoring Program and 3 Meals a Day Program. I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak with the students who have directly benefitted from these programs. Speaking with them and actually observing the conditions here made a world of a difference to my understanding of how EKARI operates, even though I’ve been on the Board of Directors for two years! 

I spoke with Wilson, Promise and Stella who are all EKARI beneficiaries and have participated in the 3 Meals a Day Program and the Tutoring Program. They each had a unique story to tell, but they all told me about their living conditions at home. At home, all three youth said that they normally get one meal a day, usually supper. Although the students attend a school that boards students and provides meals, they told me that they get two meals a day at school, which mostly consist of vegetables and a maize (white corn) flour, porridge-texture food called nsima (pronounced en-see-ma), which is a staple of the Malawian diet. Due to poor funding from the government, the school cannot provide a wide variety of food. However, during school breaks when they stay at EKARI’s home for tutoring, EKARI provides3 meals which cover the 6 food groups recommended by the Malawi government, where the food variety is much greater, including protein from chicken and beef, plus other vegetables and fruits, and is more nutritious.

Wilson is 18, is about to finish the equivalent of his junior year at Phalombe Secondary School and is from Phalombe District. At the beginning of this school year, EKARI started sponsoring Wilson, and in September he will be a fully sponsored EKARI beneficiary. I asked Wilson about the 3 Meals a Day Program. He explained to me that at home he typically has one meal a day because his family is very poor. I asked Wilson if he could choose one thing to have to be successful, and he said that “food allows me to concentrate more on my studies, and is essential to my success.” Wilson wants to be a lawyer, and hopes to graduate from secondary school (high school) at the end of next year.

Stella is 17 and will finish her sophomore year of school at the end of June. She explained to me that “poverty in my home village of Gogodera is widespread, and people eat food to feel full, not to have a healthy body.” Thanks to the 3 Meals a Day Program, she feels full and healthy, plus she’s not worried about where her next meal is coming from. I asked how often she gets meat at home, and she told me once a year! I double checked that she actually meant only once a year, not a month or a week, and she confirmed, telling me that her family usually is able to have a chicken or goat at Christmas, but it is rare the rest of the time.

Promise is 18 years old, and is attending Phalombe Secondary School. Just finishing his sophomore year of school, he just took the JCE exam, which is supposed to gauge how the students will do in their final year exams, which is their ticket into college. Promise told me that when he has three meals from EKARI, he doesn’t take it for granted, but instead uses it as motivation to study harder since he has a full meal in his stomach. He told me that he uses food to be productive, and it also increases his attention span and he is able to focus on his work for much longer. He told me that the programs that EKARI offers, including 3 Meals a Day, Tutoring and the Library Programs have led to significant changes in his and his classmates’ future that they would not have had otherwise.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to see EKARI Foundation on the ground, and have had the chance to experience what life is like in Malawi. If you would like to learn more about other programs EKARI offers, check out our website and our blog for the latest updates.

 

Zikomo (thank you)!

 

Stella, a beneficiary of the 3 Meals a Day Program
Stella, a beneficiary of the 3 Meals a Day Program
Promise, a student at Phalombe Secondary School
Promise, a student at Phalombe Secondary School

Links:

Apr 8, 2016

Newly Purchased Lab Equipment for Tutoring Program

John teaching a Tutoring Program lesson
John teaching a Tutoring Program lesson

Thanks to the generosity of you, our donors, EKARI Foundation was able to purchase laboratory equipment so students can now effectively conduct science experiments while participating in our Tutoring Program and have a better chance to pass their year-end exams, which allows them to progress to the next grade level and continue on with their higher education. Many classrooms in Malawi are overcrowded, teachers are overwhelmed and occasionally apathetic, and schools cannot afford to purchase laboratory equipment for their science classrooms. Most students must perform laboratory experiments on their year-end exams when they have never seen or used laboratory equipment during the school year, but only heard about the equipment from their teachers. This leads to failure on the exams and often leads to students dropping out of school.

During our most recent tutoring session in late March/early April, one of our students, Jenipher said that she “appreciated being able to actually see what a beaker looks like, and to see what it’s used for.” Blessings, another student shared that his life will completely change since he started using the laboratory equipment because he will not have problems during exams. In addition, if EKARI Foundation’s Tutoring Program was unable to provide the supplies, students wouldn’t be able to afford to purchase chemicals for experiments.

Additionally, there is a major shortage of science teachers, which has forced schools to ask teachers who are experts in other subjects to teach science lessons. A high school student Mackford, a participant in our Tutoring Program, said that “this is contrary to how students should be managed because the temporary teacher is not an expert and may discuss a subject incorrectly, which leads to students to not take teachers seriously.” This why the presence of John, the local physical teacher that we contract with to teach physical science during our Tutoring Program, is so important to our students. Our Tutoring Program is able to cover topics in depth that are not covered in the classroom or are only briefly mentioned.

John, the physical science teacher, mentioned that he appreciates the new laboratory equipment and chemicals because “most of the topics we cover, including Biology and Physical Science require practical experience. The doors to success in these areas should be open to all, and because we have this new equipment, EKARI students will now pass these subjects.” John also asserted that he and the other teachers whom EKARI Foundation contracts with during our Tutoring Program are ready to work to their maximum capacity to ensure the students easily pass their final exams.

We look forward to sharing another update with you soon, and in the meantime, check out our blog which has bi-weekly updates on what’s happening with EKARI.

Thank you!

John demonstrating with new lab equipment
John demonstrating with new lab equipment
EKARI students using lab equipment for experiments
EKARI students using lab equipment for experiments
EKARI students in Tutoring Program lesson
EKARI students in Tutoring Program lesson

Links:

Jan 12, 2016

100% of EKARI Students Passed Senior Exams!

EKARI High School Seniors Passed Their Exams!
EKARI High School Seniors Passed Their Exams!

Thank you to all who were able to donate to the Year-End Campaign in December! As a reminder, your donation is currently providing laboratory equipment for the Tutoring Program. We excited to share that our Tutoring Program is making an impact! Largely due to the individual attention we are able to provide our students, we reached our goal at the end of the 2014-2015 school year: 100% of our students passed their senior year exam (up from 50% in previous years) allowing them access to a higher education and the likelihood of future employment.

Congratulations to all who passed their exams: Chrispin, John, Stanley, Patricia, Jenipher, and Rhoda! John told Elias, the in-country director for EKARI, “that the 100% pass rate was due to the Tutoring Program, and if EKARI could please continue offering the program to us.” Rhoda also said, “The new laboratory equipment has helped us to carry out experiments for our Biology and Physical Science classes, which prepared us for our year-end examinations.”  

Previously we split the students into two groups - freshman and sophomore students in one group & junior and seniors in a second group. We found that that wasn't the most efficient way to conduct our program because senior students need to focus on their end of year exam. So in December of 2015, we started splitting the students into three groups: freshman/sophomores in one group, juniors in their own group, and then seniors in their own group. We have three classrooms in our community building so this worked well. This allows the teachers to focus on specific content for each grade level. 

Students for Liberty, a youth-run community based organization in Malawi, met with our students during our Tutoring Program. EKARI partners with Students for Liberty in order to mentor our high school students. Students for Liberty teaches our students about goal setting, the college/university application process, and future career/entrepreneurship opportunities. We are currently working on ways to expand our partnership with them to better mentor the students, ensuring that they grow independently and we achieve our long term goal of sustainability within the Phalombe district.

We look forward to sharing another update about the Tutoring Program, as well as the Three Meals a Day Program, very soon. In the meantime, check out our blog which has the latest updates from EKARI.

Links:

 
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