A really successful year with Mkondezi in 2015-16 led us to develop this programme for primary schools here in Nkhata Bay. I´d always felt that rather than working individually with one, or two schools, it would be ideal to offer the necessary materials for those teachers who were interested to learn and teach about them. To concentrate more on shorter training sessions, rather than the Permaculture Design Course (PDC), which is often too long a commitment for Malawians. We isolated the factors we thought had made it a success and helped Mkondezi hold an open day in May 2016 where we outlined what we were proposing.
We were overwhelmed with the response as three other schools joined the programme for that coming September. We had to quickly start writing all the materials and I set up a crowd funder that first year to help cover the costs, although low, of supporting the schools in that second year. We concentrated upon producing detailed practical session plans based around an after-school club for up to 40 children. Topics were wide-ranging, from waste management, compost, tree planting to seed saving, nutrition and water management. We observed and got involved in many of the sessions, travelling far out to some of the schools and gained extensive feedback over the coming two years on these session plans, incorporating all this feedback back into them.
We also believed in training at least two teachers from each school and linked with Friday Kamanga a local permaculture expert and teacher to develop a training course. We held the first one at Butterfly in August 2016, hosted by Friday Kamanga, and teachers from all schools completed as well as other community members from the Agriculture Department and research station. They had twenty-one detailed session plans to work through during the three terms, seven per term. We also held regular teachers meetings, held at different school venues where the teachers had the chance to talk through problems and gain new ideas.
Subsequent open days at these four schools led to five more schools joining, and six more joined the following year, meaning that today we are working with fifteen schools in Nkhata Bay District. Whereas the first two year we concentrated upon feedback on the session plans, and incorporated all these ideas into the final set in August 2018. This year has seen the project develop in other ways. In May 2018 MSPC was winner of the young project award from the Lush Spring Prize and this boost gave us the chance to develop the idea further.
There had been interest in the programme from further afield in Malawi from people who were working with different primary schools. We decided to pilot with five schools from further afield to see how the distance affected the success of the programme. As such ten teachers, two from each of these schools attended the training here in Nkhata Bay in August 2018 meaning a total of 40 teachers, from 20 schools in total getting trained. After consultation with the District Education Manager we also developed a one-day sensitisation programme for the Primary Education Advisors so that they are aware of the programme happening at their schools and ways they can encourage it at the individual schools or get involved.
Expansion of the project has also seen us develop the idea of outlying clusters for the schools. Transport is a costly and inhibitive factor in Malawi and if we can develop the links and resources in different areas over time then these villages can improve their everyday life’s and their potential future. Each cluster now sees a mixture of schools, with a solid supply of different trained teachers, information, seeds, ideas and determination. The hope would be that after five years of support at the school they would have enough, in every way to continue the project at the school. We further hope to develop a number of link projects that these schools could expand to at the end of our five-year involvement. While these are not finalised as yet they could include;

  • Assistance with a permaculture school feeding programme if the school has access to a hectare of and.
  • Small scale build projects at the school, highlighting eco-sanitation techniques amongst others things.
  • Educational links to schools outside Malawi who may also be following an environmental curriculum.
  • Links to solar organisations who could assist with lighting facilities if schools are completely off the grid.

We have recently linked up with Roots Interns to try and attract longer-term volunteers that can help push this exciting project forward as it is still developing. If you want to stay in touch more then please like our separate Facebook page to keep up to date with this project.

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