Project #12441

Support school costs for children in rural Malawi

by Partners In Health (PIH)

Thank you for your cotnued support of Partners In Health and the Program on Social and Economic Rights (POSER) in Malawi. We're pleased to share this update from the field, provided by our POSER team:


"Konzeka is a soft-spoken fifteen-year-old sitting in a neatly kept blue school uniform. She has come to visit us after class today to discuss her experience with POSER's school support program and her academic accomplishments so far.

POSER has supported Konzeka through the past four years of her education. Throughout primary school, this took the form of pens, exercise books and school materials. When she passed the entrance exam to continue to secondary school, POSER paid the annual school and exam fees that can make secondary school education prohibitively expensive for vulnerable families like Kanzeka’s.

Despite being similarly committed to his education, Kanzeka’s oldest brother had his studies cut short by financial hardships at home. He had to take on odd jobs to support the family, including his younger brother who suffers from epilepsy and requires significant attention and care. Konseka credits the POSER program with keeping her and her younger sister in school. “Without the POSER program, there would not have been enough money at home for me to continue my studies,” Kanzeka said. “I would be at home doing nothing, or maybe doing odd jobs around the community. When a girl drops out of school, her future is not bright.”

But the future looks bright for both Kanzeka and her sister who aspire to become a nurse and a doctor respectively. Asked her favorite subject, Kanzeka enthusiastically lists four: English, Math, Physical Science and Geography. “I want to finish my studies in the next two years and continue to University,” she said. We ask her if she is one of the best students in her class. Her piercing light-brown eyes twinkle. She replies, humble but confident, “Don’t worry. I’m doing just fine.”


Thank you again for your generous support! Happy holidays!

Thank you so much for supporting Partners In Health and the Program on Social and Economic Rights (POSER) in Malawi. We're pleased to share this update from the field, provided by our POSER team:

"Before we can thank Yamikani for taking the time to visit us after school, he has already thanked us for the support the POSER program has provided to him and his family.

Yamikani, who is 20, has been raised for the past eighteen years by a single mom. His father abandoned the family eighteen years ago, leaving his mother with only a small plot of corn and tomatoes and sporadic odd jobs to feed him and his three younger siblings.

Despite this challenging financial situation at home, Yamikani completed primary school. When it came time to proceed to secondary school, Yamikani began receiving financial support from the POSER school program. POSER has paid Yamikani’s annual tuition and exam fees for the past three years, alleviating the financial burden of education on his household and making it possible for him to continue his studies.

“Without the POSER program,” he said, “continuing my education would have been very, very difficult, because of the number of children my mother is caring for.” He hopes that his two younger siblings, who are not yet old enough for school, will be able to receive support through the POSER program and that they will be able to go far in their education.

As for Yamikani, he enjoys studying math, physical sciences and biology, and hopes to pass the exam to enter University later this year. “I want to become a doctor,” he said, explaining how he has admired the work of doctors in his home district of Neno where PIH operates. “There are so many people here who are so vulnerable. My relatives. My friends. They are all being cared for by these doctors, and I would like to one day be able to provide this care as well.” 

Thank you again for your generous support!

Photo by Nandi Bwanali / Partners In Health
Photo by Nandi Bwanali / Partners In Health

Above: Students in Neno, Malawi show off their new shoes and school uniforms provided by POSER.

With school now in session, PIH/Abwenzi Pa Za Umo (APZU)'s Program for Social and Economic Rights (POSER) team is busy ensuring that the needs of the many students supported by the department are met. In addition to paying school fees, the team is rolling out the distribution of school shoes, uniforms, and other learning materials such as notebooks and pens.

The cost of a school uniform is now around $5, a hefty price for most in the parents and guardians living in Neno district in rural Malawi, where the average daily income is less than $1. Wearing a proper school uniform, however, is a prerequisite for attending classes and students without uniforms are sent home and denied a chance to an education.

Students like Happy George, an eleventh grade student who was identified by his classmates as the poorest in the class was referred to POSER by his school when his guardians were unable to continue to support his education.

Happy George, who is at top of his class, lost his parents when he was very young and has since been supported by his older sisters who dropped out of school to care for their family and work to make money to fund their brother’s education.

“This helps ease the burden on the parents and guardians as they cannot afford to send the children to school, let alone buy them school materials. We usually see cases where the lucky few manage to get one or two books which is still not sufficient for all their subjects,” shared Ivy Mwanaku, POSER assistant.

Happy George would one day like to become a scientist. This is one of many dreams and aspirations the department is supporting.

“We try our best to make sure that they learn just like the other students with their concern and concentration being solely on passing their exams,” said Mwanaku.

At the beginning of the year the department accounted for 2,000 children living in Neno District who are need of school aid. Most of these children are now receiving school support from POSER, and more children are being referred. The POSER team works diligently in its efforts to identify children in need of support and proceeding with their efforts to help them receive the education they deserve.

Nandi Bwanali / Partners In Health
Nandi Bwanali / Partners In Health

Thank you so much for supporting Partners In Health and our efforts to break the cycle of poverty and disease in rural Malawi. Your generosity allows us to provide medical care, social support, and economic assistance to students in Malawi who otherwise have limited ability to access health care and attend school. One such student is Andrea Chatha (pictured above), whose story you can read below.

Andrea is a senior at Chikonde Secondary School in Neno. The last born out of seven children, he grew up being supported by his hardworking mother who sold bananas for a living. His father, whom he has little recollection of, left them when Andrea was very young.

2015 was a year of turmoil for the ever smiling young man as he was hospitalized for many months after being diagnosed with High Grade Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Nevertheless, through chemotherapy and constant monitoring by the palliative care team in Neno, his condition turned for the better.

Whilst in the hospital, a stable Andrea shared his fears with a nurse who was assigned to him.

 “My mother who had barely been making enough to support us had been left penniless because of my condition. She had to stop her business and take what little she had to help support me through this dire time.”

 Andrea went on to tell the nurse that he was worried that he would no longer be able to go back to school and constantly worried about how he and his siblings would survive after this ordeal.

Partners In Health’s Program for Social and Economic Rights team was informed of Andrea’s situation and determined that he was eligible for school support.

Andrea is now 19, the youngest in his class, with a future filled with hope. Andrea hopes to one day make it to medical school as he enjoys and excels in physics, chemistry and math. He struggles with English grammar but has taken the extra initiative to devote time to practicing with his friends at school and reading more books.

“The hardest part for most people is not the challenge of passing enough classes to go to college, but rather finding the money to support themselves through college. Most people write their secondary school leaving exams and just give up, but it is my hope that I will one day be able to see the doors of the College of Medicine.”

Nandi Bwanali / Partners In Health
Nandi Bwanali / Partners In Health
Nandi Bwanali / Partners In Health
Nandi Bwanali / Partners In Health

(Above) Rachel helps her grandmother pump water from their well in Ligowe, Malawi.

Thank you for your support! With your help, Partners In Health is able to reach more children in rural Malawi with the medical care and social support that they need to thrive.  Children like Rachel—whose story is featured below.  I hope you take a moment to read about the lives that have been transformed because of your generosity.  

Rachel lives with her mother and grandparents in Ligowe, Malawi, in the remote district of Neno. The young girl, who turns 6 next month, helps her grandmother at home and pumps water from a well in their garden. When she’s not with her grandmother or at school, the cheerful first-grader plays with other children in their compound.

Her grandmother never thought Rachel would reach this age. At 2, she was HIV-positive and severely malnourished. With antiretroviral therapy and a peanut-based, high-calorie food provided by Partners In Health, she quickly recovered. But last year Rachel was readmitted to the hospital, malnourished and infected with tuberculosis. With more treatment, she eventually became well enough to return home. In all, Rachel has been hospitalized six times for malnutrition.

This is not uncommon. Most rural Malawians are poor subsistence farmers and grow maize outside their homes. If a family isn’t able to harvest enough maize to last them the year, they go hungry.

Without food, an individual’s immune system weakens and the body becomes more susceptible to disease; malnutrition therefore goes hand in hand with diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and HIV. Illness can then worsen malnutrition, compounding both problems.

This year is likely to be harder than usual for Rachel and others in rural Malawi. January, February, and March—a period known as nthawi ya chilala, the “hunger season”—are often when people run out of food they harvested the previous May.

But the hunger season is expected to come much earlier this year. Excessive rains last January caused devastating floods in many parts of the country and washed away crops and fertilizer, such that maize production has decreased by 28 percent, according to government estimates. The Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development predicts that 3 million people—17 percent of Malawi’s population—will not be able to meet their annual food requirements.

PIH is already seeing the effects. Dolifa, an elderly woman with failing eyesight, came to have her eyes checked at a recent health screening in Matope. PIH clinicians diagnosed her as malnourished. “A lot of people have no food; our crops were washed away,” Dolifa shrugged. “We are just trying to make ends meet day in and day out, letting tomorrow’s worries remain tomorrow’s worries.”

Another patient, a father named John, came to the screening with a persistent cough and learned he was also malnourished. “I am not surprised,” he said. “My family and I usually go days without eating. When we have food to eat, we spare bigger portions for the younger ones.”

PIH provides malnourished patients with bags of blended corn and soy flour, and cooking oil. Patients suffering from severe malnutrition receive nut-based formulas that are high in calories, and they are referred to clinics for further care and medication. If patients are suffering from additional diseases such as tuberculosis or HIV, PIH incorporates nutritious food into their treatment. To prevent malnutrition in HIV-positive mothers and children, PIH provides them food in addition to antiretroviral therapy.

For Rachel and her family, it will be an ongoing challenge to stay healthy. But they’re hopeful. Rachel’s mother, 24-year-old Mphatso, thinks back to a year ago, when she feared she would lose her daughter.

“I remember sitting on the hospital bed and seeing other children die. I was scared Rachel would also die,” she said. Now, Mphatso thinks her daughter will go far in life. To inspire hope in others, she often tells Rachel’s story.

Blessings Banda, PIH’s nutrition manager in Malawi, has watched Rachel grow from a toddler to a young school girl, and helped care for her each step of the way (read more about his friendship with Rachel and her family here and here).

“We track her and act quickly to ensure we support her in all ways possible—both medically and nutrition-wise,” he says.


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Organization Information

Partners In Health (PIH)

Location: Boston, MA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Laura Soucy
Annual Giving Coordinator
Boston, MA United States

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