September 19, 2017 9:17 am
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Every year uTalk runs the Junior Language Challenge (JLC), the UK’s only language challenge for primary schools. This summer, JLC 2016 winner Ritisha and her family went on her prize winning trip to Malawi. While there, Ritisha took the time to document her visit, so in her own words read on to find out what they got up to.

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Still, sometimes I dream that I can hear the children at Biwi Lea School in Lilongwe, Malawi laughing merrily with their innocence brightening up the room. It was one of those rare experiences, which will live on in my heart as long as I am alive…

Trekking up to the headmistress’ office I felt apprehensive, but excited too. I didn’t know what to expect. As soon as we stepped inside, the headmistress shook our hands warmly and led us to the classroom. It was nothing like the classrooms you or I would expect – it was a single room standing on its own. There were no desks, tables or chairs, but just a few rugs on the floor, nor were there any exercise books, only iPads and headphones.

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Taking off their shoes one by one, they queued to enter the classroom. Once entering the room, they all knew what to do. They sat down quickly in rows and were handed out the iPads and headphones by their teacher. They plugged them in and started their lessons immediately. I walked around, watching what everyone was doing. Once or twice, I even caught a glimpse of other little children peeking in at the windows and sweetly waving at me!

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Since the class was a mix between Year One and Year Two children, some were differentiating colours, some were counting, and a handful of children were playing ‘odd-one-out’ in Chichewa, their local language. I liked the idea that they could get online certificates and even diplomas once they finished their task! Each time a child got a certificate or a diploma, they would tell the teacher and the whole class would erupt into cheers and claps. The atmosphere was very supportive. The best students in the class were the diploma holders, who got to do a higher standard of task, their proud grins encouraging others to do their very best. It was so much fun, the time flew past very quickly, so it came as a shock that it was time to go. After a few photos with the children, I got into the car and was driven back to the hotel, but just before I left the premises, I saw a group of children waving goodbye, and I waved back until I couldn’t see them anymore, shouting “dapita, dapita!” (This means goodbye in Chichewa). I will always remember their joyful faces, glowing with kindness.

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Thank you so much JLC, for giving me this fantastic opportunity, and experience of a lifetime. How would you like to watch wild animals striding past you in their royal glory, soak in the mist of the majestic Victoria Falls, bargain with pedlars to get that coveted and astonishing piece of woodwork, make new friends with the school children in Malawi and feel at home with the kind and hospitable people? For that is what Africa is all about, and much, much more, which words cannot do justice to. You have to see it with your own eyes and experience it with your own soul.

Let me tell you something: I have done it, and with a mixture of hard work, determination and practice, you can do it too!

Ritisha Baidyaray


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