Mixed emotions this morning when our alarms went off at 5am (4am UK time)! But sleepy heads were soon forgotten when we arrived at Stella Maris Secondary School for Girls.
Their morning service was just about to begin with some of the singers having some last minute practise as we arrived and we quickly knew we were going to be in for a treat. The service was a wonderful experience, we were in awe at not only the singing and dancing but of the joy and devotion on display.
The girls are clearly a tight knit community of very good friends who are guided and supported by all in the school community. The only way to describe the singing was heavenly, we couldn’t help but join in with some movement and clapping but safe to say the singer’s jobs were safe with us… We were welcomed to the altar to introduce ourselves to the congregation (the part when you feel like a complete fraud as you are held up in total pedestal in front of the young learners) but we were made to feel so welcome and so appreciated which touched all of our hearts.
When the senior teacher was thanking us for attending he told us that Malawi is not our second home… it is in fact our first home and Scotland is now our second!
And I must say we were truly made to feel this way today and everywhere we have gone.
Although the celebration of mass was completely joyful, during the sermon that the priest delivered he spoke about the shocking statistics of how only 9% of the population of Malawi are actually employed. A sobering fact that is easy to forget when we are staying in the hustle and bustle of a major city.
It is important to remember that this is not the same across the country. It is for reasons such as this that we must continue to strive for better education for children in Malawi and around the world.
When opportunities to better yourself are few and far between we know the importance of education and the opportunities a good education can give someone.
As I type, I am reflecting on my own journey and think how I wouldn't be where I am today and in the career and financial position that I am without my free education (both secondary and university), something that we can often take for granted in Scotland.
Unlike primary school, secondary school is not a free entitlement to children in Malawi. Students must pass access to be deemed able to attend secondary school. Even if they pass this there is a fee to pay so many families will not be able to afford this luxury.
Often if they can afford it for some children, the priority would tend to go to the male children which is why Stella Maris is a great place to experience and learn about.
As well as the amazing work that MLOL do for primary schools and the development of reading and reading books in the region, they also pay for two girls to attend Stella Maris, giving them this opportunity of a better future.
If you are enjoying reading the blogs and hearing about our work, and you are in a position to do so, perhaps you might be able to donate a small regular amount to the charity to allow this sort of work to continue (contact the charity via the website or email Maureen at firstname.lastname@example.org).
After mass we were welcomed to join the nuns, who help to run the school, for breakfast. A welcome treat after our early wake up call and two hour mass. Over breakfast we discussed the daily lives of the 511 girls studying at Stella Maris.
Each day begins with a 3am wake up call when the girls will attend church before returning to their dormitories to tidy their rooms, get their baths, get ready and have breakfast before starting their learning at 7am - made us feel a little bit small for grudging our ‘early’ morning!
The girls are actively engaged in taking care of themselves - they will keep their rooms clean and wash their own laundry etc. After breakfast we had a guided tour of the school by one of the nuns and visited some of the dormitories where the level of cleanliness would give some of our MLOL team a run for their money.
It was inspiring to speak to these young girls who even on a Sunday morning were engrossed in their independent studies as they spoke to us about their dreams of becoming; a lawyer, a nurse, a midwife and even an astronomer amongst many others.
They were all an absolute credit to themselves, their families and the school itself!
We then visited our favourite Blantyre supermarket ‘Shoprite’ to pick up some essentials to get us through a busy day ahead of final prep for the training beginning Monday morning. Returning back to Kabula after what felt like an entire day of activity we realised that it was actually only 10.30am… this meant some could catch a quick nap and others could catch some rays in the sun (I’ll let those who know me best take a guess at which team I was in).
After a short rest all round it was time to get to work. We set up camp in the Kabula terrace with its stunning views for inspiration. Although the breeze that we had been so grateful for provided a bit of a challenge when we were drowning in paper we still managed to pull together resources, displays and posters to ensure we were ready for a smooth first day of training tomorrow.
We went in to the centre for a delicious dinner and returned home to get an early night before the hard work really begins.
Tiyeni! (let’s go!)