From toilets to teachers, people across Scotland lend a hand to Malawi

Caitlin Logan

CommonSpace spoke to some of the diverse Scotland-based organisations working to support development in Malawi

THE SCOTLAND Malawi Partnership (SMP) Youth Congress on Tuesday sought to raise awareness of and strengthen Scotland’s links with Malawi, bringing young people from all over Scotland together with a range of people and organisations with Malawi links.

SMP works with over 1,500 such individuals and organisations in Scotland, and many of the group of over 300 young people who attended the event have planned school trips to Malawi to further foster these connections.

CommonSpace attended the event as a media partner, and learned more from some of the organisations about how Scotland is already supporting a diverse range of development work in Malawi.

Here are some of the highlights, in their own words.

Classrooms for Malawi – James Kelly

We’re based in Rutherglen and our remit is that we build and renovate classrooms in Malawi. We registered as a charity in September 2012, the management committee are all volunteers but we do have an office and a member of staff here in Scotland, and we also have a member of staff in Malawi itself in Blantyre.

In Blantyre we identify suitable projects and cost them, with a view to trying to find schools or groups here in Scotland who will fund those projects. It can vary from renovating maybe an older building and it needing a simple renovation – and that can cost a couple of thousand pounds – to perhaps building a brand new three classroom block which can cost about £25,000.

In Malawi terms that’s probably a lot of money – in our terms it doesn’t sound an awful lot, but it does make a huge difference to communities, particularly where they have, sometimes, actually got no classrooms whatsoever.

We work with the education department in Malawi and ask them to identify suitable classrooms that we should work on, and we then assess them and decide on the most suitable ones. Over the last five years we’ve done 155 classrooms.

Just Trading Scotland – Stephen Hayes

We’re based in Paisley and since 2008 we’ve been importing Kilombero rice from northern Malawi and a range of other things from Africa, from Swaziland, South Africa, and Sri Lanki as well, but today since it’s a Malawi event we’re focussing on the Kilombero rice. We import it – white and brown – in bulk and we’re the wholesalers selling it on to fair-trade shops, to faith groups, and to schools through the 90kg challenge.

Today we are particularly encouraging people to take up the 90kg challenge because the surplus from selling 90kg of rice is sufficient for a farmer to send a child to school for one year.

Baula Craft Company – Beverley Kay

The Baula Craft Company is named after the village in Malawi where the crafts are all made. My daughter Hannah was in Malawi in 2016 with a school group – she was in uni at the time and she was over there doing fieldwork for her dissertation and met this lady Martha who came to ask if she could sell some bracelets to the pupils.

Hannah got chatting and was really inspired by Martha, who had set up a women’s empowerment group in Malawi in 2008.  They’re trying to raise money for a Bore Hole in the village, and everything here is made by the ladies in this empowerment group and raises funds towards this.

Hannah and Martha have set up the company name and between them, over social media, they have arranged all this.

Scottish Fair Trade Forum – Logan Clow

Our organisation is a membership organisation based in Scotland and we try to encourage fair trade, and that includes trying to improve sales of fair trade products that come from various countries including Malawi. Next week is the beginning of Fair Trade fortnight and we’ve actually got two producers from Mzuzu Coffee coming and doing a few events around Scotland.

Chifundo UK | Chanasa Malawi – Susan Flynn

Chifundo UK and Chanasa Malawi aim to empower girls and women in Malawi through funding their education, their higher education or vocational training. We do that through, not giving them handouts, but by enabling a women’s enterprise in Blantyre, Malawi to make sustainable products.

They do this by using recycled denim and cotton and mixing it with African fabrics to make a whole range of products, and we send three women a year at least to do training at the Beehive Tailoring School in Blantyre and often it’s more if the women are doing informal courses.

We’ve now reached a stage that we’ve been able to place a large order with Glasgow University and their retail arm is selling 300 products that we’ve made, and the wonderful thing is that they’ve agreed to use the profits to fund female scholarships at the College of Medicine. So it’s kind of got a double whammy: it’s not just empowering the women in Malawi who make the products, it’s empowering girls who are very poor but talented to study at the College of Medicine in Glasgow.

We want to do this more and more – that’s why I’m here today to make contact with schools and try to get them to think about fundraising through selling the products we make and then using the profits to enable girls to go to school in Malawi and strengthen their link with the school that they already have out there.

Link Community Development International – Lyndsey Rae

Our work is to improve the quality of education in Sub-Saharan Africa and we do that by working with the minister for education, local government and local communities to get everyone involved in improvement process and hold one another accountable to ensure children get the best outcomes possible.

In Malawi the biggest project we’ve done recently was to help develop the national education standards which all schools in Malawi should strive to attain. They’ve just been distributed to every primary and secondary school in Malawi – which is over 7,000 schools – and we’re not working to help schools see how they can attain those different standards. This follows through from things like teacher training and quality of the lesson, to the quality of the buildings.

So we do a school performance review and get the whole community involved to evaluate against those standards how the school is performing, and from that information they put together a school improvement plan, where everyone will have something to do – from parents, to head teachers, to the ministry of education.

We do a number of different interventions, which could be things like getting community groups involved to do reading groups for children, for example, we distribute reusable sanitary pads to the girls to make sure they’re not missing out on school during menstruation, and we encourage parents to understand the importance of sending their children to school and making sure they can do the best they possibly can when they’re there – so, not overburdening them with so many chores that they’re not able to make school or they show up late.

Toilet Twinning – Elyse Kirkham

We’re a charity initiative that provides education on hygiene, sanitation and water. Malawi is one of the countries we work in, we work in sub-Saharan Africa but also in lots of other countries across the world – Myanmar, Nepal, Guatemala, to name a few. We do community-led sanitation education programmes, we work in a community as part of a long term sustainable solution to sanitation problems.

It’s all about twinning toilets, so you can twin a toilet at your home, you can twin a toilet at your school, with a community latrine or a family latrine in one of the poorest communities in the world, it’s £60 to twin a toilet or it’s £240 if you want to twin with a block or with four toilets within one community, so a school could get involved and twin their toilets. You get a certificate to hang on the wall which has the GPS coordinates of the toilet and the community where the toilets are built and a photo, and you can have them tailored to have the school name on it as well.

So it’s a kind of quirky way to engage people and to raise the issues that come with a lack of sanitation. Over a third of the world’s population don’t have a toilet, and that’s just a ridiculously crazy, astonishing amount of people. So part of our work is to increase that and to engage people to built their own latrines.

You can find out more about the Scotland Malawi Partnership and the work it coordinates here.

Pictures: CommonSpace

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