Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Malawi Schools...

We are pleased to announce the construction of two schools we funded in Malawi through Save the Children should be completed this month.

The schools were based on the design created by the respected architectural firm John McAslan+Partners. The design is great and the schools are made with local materials at a total constructed cost of about $25,000 each. The completion of these two schools will be the third school we helped complete in Malawi.
Save the Children is grateful for the Segal Family Foundation’s generous grant of $50,000, which is being used to construct two primary schools in impoverished rural communities in the Zomba District of Malawi. Children in Malawi face considerable difficulties in learning, given crumbling schools, unsanitary conditions, and limited learning materials. Your funds are being used to construct additional classrooms and latrines for girls and boys in the communities of Ntangantanga and Namalombe. At the suggestion of the Segal Family Foundation, Save the Children is partnering with John McAslan+Partners to use their award-winning school designs. As a result of your support, Save the Children will be able to improve the quality of education for thousands of children in the target communities. We are pleased to report on our progress to date and next steps for the project.

Need for Funding
In 1994, the government of Malawi passed a law that required all children to attend primary school. As a result, more than one million additional pupils joined the primary education system during the first year of the new policy. Unfortunately, without the funds necessary to invest in school infrastructure, teacher training, and materials, the quality of education has seriously deteriorated. Schools are overcrowded and in poor repair, classes are being taught by temporary teachers with limited training, and far too few children have access to books, desks, or even basic amenities such as latrines or clean water in their schools. In Namalombe School, none of the five classrooms have walls and the roof is in bad shape. At Ntangatanga School, the two classroom blocks are insufficient to accommodate all of the children enrolled, so the remaining students use an abandoned house as a classroom. These poor learning conditions have contributed to increased student drop out rates and low levels of academic achievement.

Project Planning
Beginning in spring 2010, Save the Children began discussions with John McAslan + Partners to use their successful school model in Malawi. The McAslan model has been able to address a number of the challenges faced by local schools, including safety concerns, extreme temperatures, and limited local building materials. After meeting with McAslan + Partners, engineering and consulting firm Arup, the Ministry of Education, and the Education Infrastructure Management Unit, we conducted a site visit to Zomba to determine how the McAslan model could be adapted to our target communities.
Save the Children has existing child sponsorship programs in Zomba and strong relationships with the local communities. Community mobilization is an essential part of Save the Children’s approach to get the local population oriented and involved in new projects. Prior to the start of construction, we spent time consulting with local leaders, teachers, and parents to gain their support and input for the new schools.

The McAslan school model requires the use of Soil Stabilized Blocks for building, which are made from special moulds which Save the Children did not have on hand. We purchased these moulds using funds from child sponsorship programs in the area, since education is a critical priority in Zomba. Community members volunteered their time to help create the blocks and provide free labor. We hired a Project Consultant and two Contractors who are working with our Malawi Country Office staff on the project. The contractors were deployed in July to survey the site.

Project Implementation
In August, community members began creating the blocks and we started construction. In Namalombe, progress has been remarkably swift. The foundation is finished and the Contractor has now started working on the superstructure. In Ntangantanga, the foundation is finished but progress in building the walls has been a bit slower since there are two other construction projects underway that require the time of community members. These other projects focus on building a teacher’s house and an early childhood development center. Until mid-September, community labor was split between these projects, but as the other projects wrap up, we are making greater progress on building the school in Ntangantanga. The resulting schools will be spacious, offer a communal space for gathering, separate latrines for boys and girls, better ventilation in the summer and insulation in the winter, improved light, and the structures will be safer and more durable than the current schools.

Timeline for Completion
It is evident from progress made hitherto that the two schools are at different levels of completion. We anticipate that construction of the primary school in at Namalombe will be completed by end of November and the school in Ntangantanga will be done by mid- December. Both schools will be ready for use by learners at the beginning of second term of the next school year. Once the work is finished, we will submit a final report to the Segal Family Foundation. Until then, please know that we are truly grateful for your support, which is helping children with very few opportunities in life. By improving the learning conditions for children, we can improve attendance and keep children in school.

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