by ROWENA OREJANA
CHIFUNGA, Malawi — Former Baradene head girl, Maddie Little,
has found a way to carry on with the Kindness Club all the way to
Miss Little, 18, is in Malawi, Africa, with Latitude Global Volunteering, teaching form one andform three (equivalent to NZ forms 4 and 6) biology and maths. The school is a community day secondary school (CDSS), the lowest and cheapest public school there.
Yet students still drop out because they can’t afford it.
“Most of the students struggle to pay school fees. For example, my
class of 105 students was reduced to 28 on Tuesday (May 13) because
all the pupils who hadn’t paid this term’s school fees were sent home. You can imagine how distressing it is not being able to teach your classes because less than a third of them are there,” she said. Ms Little is now in her second term of teaching.
She said when this happened in her first term, she was beside herself.
“I didn’t have enough money to help all of them pay their fees and didn’t know what to do.”
She hit on the idea of setting up a sponsorship programme between
her Malawi girl students and the Kindness Club that she set up at
her old school in New Zealand — Baradene College — last year. “I
was hopeful they would support it, because paying for a full year of
school fees at Chifunga CDSS costs just under $NZ30,” she said.
The Baradene Girls’ Kindness Club did. They are now supporting
48 Malawi girl students. Sacred Heart College boys stepped up as
well, supporting male students.
The New Zealand students sent $35 for each of their sponsored
students to cover not only school fees but the cost of posting letters.
“My mum gave me some extra money, so we are having a practice
letter writing session in a few weeks’ time,” Ms Little said.
She said she at first found teaching difficult because she had no
teaching experience, having just left school herself. Her second
challenge was the language barrier.
“Many of my students, especially in form one, speak next to no
English and it took me a while to slow down when I speak and also to
speak incredibly clearly,” she said.
She said they are, at present, practising letter writing. “I can’t
wait to do the letter writing with them and finally use the envelopes I have spent quite a while addressing! Writing to New Zealanders and receiving letters in return I hope will motivate them to make more of an effort at school and value their education more,” she said. “This is something that is a big issue in Malawi.”
Ms Little explained that most students drop out before finishing
secondary school. Others would not pursue higher education.
In addition to teaching, Ms Little coaches a netball team that
has since renamed itself the Silver Ferns after receiving a poster and a ball signed by the Silver Ferns from a photocopying company.
She teaches 20 to 25 classes a week. She is also living with another
volunteer from Christchurch in a two-room house outside the school grounds.
“We have no electricity or running water so cook using a charcoal
burner and have bucket showers everyday. We also share a mattress
on the fl oor. I love the simple lifestyle more than anything. Many
people thought it would be hard to get used to but it was one of the
easier things to adjust to,” she said.
“Something that has really touched me while I have been here is the generosity of people back at home in New Zealand. As well as the Kindness Club, so many people have sent learning resources, clothes, items for the church I go to and countless other things,” she said.
Ms Little will return home in July
by ROWENA OREJANA