Many times on you have only heard about the hard times I am having. Things in Malawi for the average person is hard. I do struggle most days with the cultural differences. Many days I am frustrated 75% of the time. I want to flip tables, yell, cry, become confrontational with people and sometimes I don’t even know what to do. I feel like I am on a wild roller coaster, which often comes to a sudden standstill. A stand still that many times I do not think I can overcome, but I keep trying. Yesterday was one of the most difficult days I have had since arriving. I have written previously about my adventures and frustrations at school, and how many teachers do not come to work consistently (read off to school we go). I have had several meetings with the local head chief and brought the issues to his attention. I felt we finally started to move in the right direction, then all the teachers in Malawi went on a strike due to a financial issue that was never addressed last August. This strike has the potential to continue for upwards to a month.
I felt completely defeated at this moment. I had to walk away from several conversations with the teachers and focus on how we wanted to divide 3 teachers (me, Tarik (the German) and Henry (my participant) between 200 students. Through all the frustrations of this strike and the many other things, here are two things I truly enjoy about teaching at the school.
- The eagerness to learn.
I have had overly large classes to teach at one time ranging from 7 to 14 years old due to the lack of teachers. Today, while teaching grades 3 and 4 I noticed grades 1 and 2 were standing at the door trying to listen to what I was teaching. My class size was already 70 students and I decided to open my classroom up to the younger grades. This doubled my class to roughly 120 students. At first, it was frustrating and difficult to get a bunch of students whose third language is English to sit down and be quite. After about 10 minutes of settling down, I was able to conduct a lesson about foods that are good to eat. The students try their absolute best in order to understand what I am teaching due to the language barrier. Everyone runs up to me to get their work checked. Sometimes the students will return several times in order to have all the answers correct. Through the lessons, I have taught roughly 75% of the students. On average the students are able to complete the work correctly and understand the assignment given. We have to focus on the small wins.
- The willingness to give their last
Many students come to school without having breakfast due to the lack of food available. They may only have a few peanuts, bread, bwabwa (a local fruit/snack), or a small snack in which they are always willing to give me half. The willingness to give me their own pen or food resonates strongly in my heart. These students do not give because they were told, but simply because they want to share. I will always be able to respect anyone willing to give their last, even when their next are not promised.
I have seen the students brighten up over the last few weeks.The looks on the student’s face when they received the new uniforms was priceless. The looks and attitudes of some of the students have completely changed in the last week of receiving uniforms. One boy in my class, Charles, was a trouble maker and never did his work. I found out that Charles did not have a pen in order to complete his work as well as not having a uniform. Since receiving his uniform and a pen he is one of my most talented students. Even with the challenges faced every day I still enjoy waking up and going to school. They say the darkest moment in the night is when the stars shine their brightest. When your faith is tested you simply have to believe that there will be light ahead and continue moving forward.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the people of Malawi. Continue to pray and send good thoughts my way while I am here in Malawi. Each day I hope for the best day possible.
Until next time,