Stepping Stones School

Providing rigorous academic training at an international standard in our pre & primary school and vocational training center.

Our mission "To offer an inclusive education based on fairness and the belief in the diverse talents of each child."

Stepping Stones Primary School Butterfly Space

Our Purpose

Stepping Stones Primary, Nursery school & Vocational Training centre provides rigorous academic training and a high standard of education to all ages. The student body includes fee-paying, scholarship, and sponsored students- creating a fair, inclusive and diverse environment for students to expand their skills academically and socially. Our vocational center offers an opportunity to those who struggle with traditional curriculums. Stepping Stones is community centered around students to nurture and motivate them to reach their full potential.

The Primary School

Alice Leaper, the founder of Stepping Stones and mother of two Malawian children, built the primary school in 2016, with the vision of providing a quality inclusive education system that benefits all families in the area. It started with just one block for standard 1, and after many fundraising efforts and support from sponsors/ donors, the school now has eight classes from Standards 1-8! 

Since then, Alice has driven the school to expand thanks to the support from head teachers Francis Roy, Imogen Stuart Fielding, and Carolina Hall, who have been integral to the development, growth and success of the school. Together, they have implemented strong and successful structures to develop the school into what it is today, year by year, block by block. The school continues to expand, and now offers support the wider community, including a community library and IT centre, access to solar lighting for high school students and study clubs, and a mixture of engaging and hands on vocational training courses. The school also runs after school permaculture clubs practicing sustainable agriculture and learning about nutrition, to interested students.

Stepping Stones is built on a model that is self sustaining, and also strives to keep costs low in order to make the school accessible to as many students as possible. 50% fee paying and 50% scholarship ensures not only a diverse student body but an educational opportunity for those who would not normally have access to a high standard of education.

Non fee paying students are carefully assessed by the needs and means of families who apply or who are put forward by their community or chiefs.

The fees at Stepping Stones are the cheapest in the area comparing to other private primary schools. We want to keep the fees affordable for the  paying students too.

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Stepping Stones’ teachers are one of the school’s greatest strengths. A Malawian teacher leads each class and receives support from qualified international teacher volunteers. Teachers of the same nationality as the majority of students helps develop a sense of pride in country. This encourages high achievement which is visible in the accomplishments of the teacher-role models. We hire teachers with high potential for growth and learning. It is pivotal that the teachers possess a willingness and openness to
experiment with new pedagogical strategies.

The teacher’s pedagogical foundations are nurtured and challenged by internationally qualified teachers who act as personal mentors. The mentors serves as assistants to the Malawian leads and offer regular reflective sessions and detailed curriculum planning in a co constructive partnership. Additionally, international volunteers who are not qualified teachers but who have extra-curricular strengths are encouraged to get involved at the school. Examples of this sort of participation include expertise in music, talent in art, or experience coaching sport. This feature of Stepping Stones is beneficial to the students: different cultures can be shared, English can be practiced, new skills can be learned, and new dreams can be imagined.

In the first five years of school, the curriculum is based on a combination of the English National Curriculum and the Malawian National Curriculum. For example, the geography, agriculture, and history lessons are focused on the local and national knowledge most relevant to the students’ daily lives. English is the language of instruction with the expectation of regularly scheduled Chichewa lessons. In later years, the curriculum becomes more Malawi based as students take national exams at the end of primary school. Without following the Malawian curriculum it would be impossible for them to pass as it is very prescriptive.

The Nursery School

In June 2022, we started off with just 12 little ones, and now run a thriving nursery school class of 30!

Many of these children come from homes of deprivation, some orphaned, but all will benefit from our interactive and inclusive nursery school. We have regular toy and book donation, and we have an amazing team of dedicated and passionate teachers, who utilise this bright and engaging classroom.
The early years are crucial to children’s development. Most nurseries in Malawi consist of a room, a teacher and 50-80 children. We are able to provide something different, which can start these children off with the early skills needed to develop well.
We are always looking for sponsors, because we want to ensure we can fully support our kids to make the progress we know they are capable of. Sponsorship means the kids can have a healthy cooked meal each day, and a fun and secure start to their educational journey!

Sponsor a student, and receive regular updates and photographs of their new exciting educational journey!

Stepping Stones Primary School Malawi Nkhata Bay

The Vocational Training Centre

Our vocational training block is situated on-site at Stepping Stones. After following our students through their educational journey, we realised that we needed to put in place a path for kids who are not academic but have more passion and natural talent in practical skills. Children who drop out of school often stay at home, not doing anything or helping with the family farm and chores, and often get themselves into unhealthy habits. Girls are at risk of early marriage and pregnancy.
The vocational center will provide opportunities and let these young people express their creative and practical talents, and learn a skill so they can succeed in life as many with a formal education do.

We are currently providing training in basket weaving and a beauty school. Carpentry workshops are in the process of being set up soon!

Who we work with...

All female students are provided with menstrual pads from Supreme (run by Rosie Woods) to ensure they have the proper information and hygiene materials. Rosie also helped to set up the beauty school at the vocational training center, which has been a huge success!

Stepping Stones is trying to promote the importance of preserving our environment, and has recently built a fuel efficient cook stove to save burning firewood, thanks to the help of Ripple Africa!  We have also launched Butterfly’s Malawi Schools Permaculture Program, which will see some exciting developments to the school grounds this year! 

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Local School Links

Butterfly Space has close links with many local schools around Nkhata Bay. We encourage and support sponsorship programs for students attending government schools, and we are happy to assist with donation and workshops coordination for volunteers who wish to get involved in local schools. We also encourage our volunteers to expand their skills sharing and volunteering efforts in to the local schools around Nkhata bay, so more students can benefit!

Why Volunteer here?

Primary school education is recognised as a primary factor in reducing poverty, helping to advance economic and agricultural productivity for developing countries. It is also known to improve health, reduce infant mortality and morbidity rates. The World Bank recorded more than 50% Malawi’s population are living in poverty in 2020, and in 2022 it is still the 5th poorest country in the world.
This provides limited opportunities for the country to escape the poverty cycle. These are problems where education can be the solution! Volunteering and supporting our local teachers is an impactful, meaningful way to contribute if you want to volunteer in Malawi.

Our curriculum encourages free-thinking and concept application through a foundational education focusing on the end of primary education exams in upper classes. Beyond school activities, there are initiatives to help address and tackle some of the issues Malawi still faces.

Stepping Stones Primary School, Butterfly Space, Malawi, volunteering, kids, teaching, volunteer in Malawi,
sustainable development goals Malawi, NGO malawi, Butterfly space nkhata bay, volunteer in Malawi, Corporate social responsibility

Stepping Stones offers varied and diverse opportunities and education to our community, and proudly targets 11 out of 16 UN Sustainable Development Goals;

1: No Poverty
2: Zero Hunger
3: Good Health & Wellbeing
4: Quality Education
5: Gender Equality
8: Decent Work & Economic Growth
9: Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure
10: Reduced Inequalities
11: Sustainable Communities
15: Life on Land
16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institution

Get Involved!

Whether you’re a teacher or this is your first experience working with children, we have opportunities for you! Qualified teachers can take a significant role by offering training and developing the skills of our Malawian teachers, and support progressive education.

Other ways to get involved include:

  • Assisting teachers in lesson prep & plans.
  • Supporting students with English literacy and reading skills.
  • Give extra support to learners with difficulties
  • Run arts & crafts clubs
  • Implement artistic projects (drama, songs, dance, music, painting, etc.).
  • Help with maintenance, gardening, or implementing green initiatives.

More ways to get involved…

Improve our impressive library by adding and categorizing more books, train and monitor library prefects, arrange book clubs, reading clubs & story time.

Our Lunch Program feeds an impressive number of students with daily nutritious food. Help us to improve and diversify our recipes, or support our kitchen staff with better cooking techniques. Teach the children about nutrition and a balanced diet.

Enhance our school grounds by implementing permaculture plots, gardening, landscaping, playground maintenance & improvements, sports ground, making signposts, fixing the road to the school, etc. 

Improve communication tools, such as posters, handouts, social media, or a website. Help sponsor promotions by taking pictures of our school and helping with our sponsorship updates.

We are also looking to collaborate with schools abroad, so please contact us if you want to connect!

If you are interested in volunteering at Stepping Stones, please get in touch! 

Volunteering is free, but volunteers are expected to cover their own living expenses, including accommodation at Butterfly Space non-profit lodge, food and transport. Volunteers are encouraged to raise funds to contribute to the project they are involved with, to enhance them (not to cover personal expenses).

Butterfly Baby baskets, Butterfly Space, Nkhata Bay, Volunteer in Malawi


By sponsoring a student, you will provide life changing opportunities and allow us to continue our community scholarship program, accepting more free learners!

  • £30 per month with cover a full sponsorship for 1 student (Fees & Meals).  Receive full updates about your sponsored student, and be a part of their educational journey!
  • £20 per month will cover a child’s school fees.  Receive full updates about your sponsored student, and be a part of their personal journey.
  • £10 per month will pay for a student to have a healthy lunch, daily.
If your budget is smaller, partial monthly sponsorship contributions are a huge help towards student fees & other school costs.