I visited Malawi for a week last month. My first impressions were the enthusiasm and happiness shown by so many Malawians. But real problems are just under the surface. For example, a serious petrol shortage means at least eight-hour waits at petrol stations.
During my visit, we installed gadgets (iPod touches) in two locations:
Here we supplied the iPods to ten Standard 1 and 2 teachers (the first two years of Primary education) in a primary school with 5,000 children. Each teacher has a class of more than 250 children. The whole school has 24 teachers – including the head and deputy. The deputy head is paid £80 a month – and needs to spend £40 a month on rent. He has to buy everything for his children and extended family on £40 a month.
Since I got back, the headteacher has written to me:
“How is London these days? Malawi is good and we are waiting for the first rains ready to plant crops since Malawi depends on farming. Andrew I’m pleased to tell you that our pupils have started scoring the stars on the charts using the devices. We are now giving the stars, which is encouraging and interesting.”
Here I met with some women who had had a fistula operation. These are women who have had problems giving birth. They not only lose their baby but are damaged – and become incontinent. As a result they are often rejected by the village society and treated like “modern day lepers”. I met one woman who got a fistula as she gave birth 45 years ago. Her whole life changed, as she suffered first the trauma of losing a baby and then being rejected by all around her. The operation takes about three hours, but all the ladies need to be in hospital for a month. Their lives are transformed in the most profound way. EuroTalk have donated software and gadgets for these ladies to use while in hospital. These gadgets had preinstalled language learning and maths apps in English and Chichewa, as well as Malawian music, photos, video clips, lesson plans etc.
The hospital anaesthetist has written:
“… the mothers really like the iPods to the extent that when I am busy they even call for them. Some of our young patients are turning into teachers of elderly patients.”
We are planning an update to the digital resources for the school and the hospital early next year.
I also met with members of the Scottish Government, who were visiting Malawi. The SG and EuroTalk are jointly funding the devices and software for these gadgets to go into 30 schools. It’s a really exciting project!
On a personal note, I was really encouraged by this visit. It follows so much work done by so many people. The potential for low cost digital devices and software in local languages to deliver education is enormous. Thank you to so many at EuroTalk, past and present, who have turned ideas into a reality.
Andrew (EuroTalk Managing Director)