Remembering January 2010 at MOET School
Ben Reynolds (Volunteer)
Leaving the UK in the grip of its coldest winter for years and arriving in Malawi, its lush vegetation extending from the Lakes tranquil shores, my feeling of a slightly nervous Africa novice soon began to recede. Upon arrival at M.O.E.T school, I soon began to realise that the numerous, welcoming – Hello, How Are You?’s was something I would soon get used to…..
Amid a flurry of dust, a packed, and I mean packed, school bus arrived to join the trickle of school children wandering from the local villages. A curious group of children soon formed, their friendly questioning was bought to a sudden halt by one of the teachers, ushering the children to their classrooms. Over the next couple of weeks, my time was spent making plans for the permaculture schemes which are so central to the self-sufficient production of the food for the school. Putting these into practise, involved a variety of tasks, from going to the local market to source ground nuts for planting, to joining the gardening team with the sowing of such crops. Time was also spent with the children collecting seed, a welcome break for the children to get the heads out of the school books and join us knocking down seeds pods and climbing trees.
I also spent a few days, experiencing school life, joining the children and and their dedicated teachers in the basic classrooms. Similar to the UK, days were split into a variety of lessons, the rhythmic pounding of a drum in place of the incessant ringing bell from my school days. It was obvious to me the children enjoyed being here, and spending time amongst them was a real joy. As the time passed, I could begin to grasp what a genuine difference this school must make to individuals here. Of course, inevitably, some may leave before completing studies, but for most, it could mean leaving school with a skilled trade, for example welding or carpentry, teaching children how to become more sufficient in growing food, educated in health and medicine and for some the opportunity to take their studies onto the next level. In my conversations with some of the older children, we discussed what they would like to do when they left school, and it was inspiring to me that despite their troubled background, (the school supporting those who are orphaned and/or vulnerable), they now had the confidence and education to want to become teachers; doctors, one boy proclaiming he wanted to be president! – And why not!!
On our final day at the school, we were humbled by the thanks given to us, the children performing and singing as we sat sheepishly at the front of the assembly. As we sat in the warm shade of a large Acacia tree (beats a stuffy echoey school hall), the children bid us farewell, and asked that we don’t forget them – and as my plane sunk through the dreary cloud cover over a wet London, thousands of miles from the school, I knew I wouldn’t…..