Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Conversation with a Senior Education Student

I have just come inside from speaking with Joseph. Joseph is 40 years old (has an 11 year old son) and is a Senior at ABC. He is an Education major. When he graduates in May, he will be able to teach in a secondary school or at a teacher's college.

I was having a cup of coffee and a brownie with Joseph. He is one of the student-guards that the campus employs at night as a security guard. Joseph was studying for his Child Evangelism and Philosophy of Education exams. I asked him if he wanted a cup of coffee and a brownie and he said yes. So I brought two brownies and two cups of coffee out with me--one cup had cream and sugar.

When Joseph was in primary school, he had to run 8 km.--4.97miles--each way to school! He said it took him about 45-50 minutes each way. He ran through some woods and the bush to make it to his village school. When he was growing up, primary education was not free, your family had to pay school fees. He said that his father told him he would have to work hard if he was going to make it.

He sure has the work hard part down! Joseph was a primary teacher for 10 years before starting at ABC. The average teacher to student ratio in a public primary or secondary school in Malawi is 1:120!!! That is amazing to me. He said that the situation was not always this way.

In 1994, when Malawi became a democracy, the government made primary education free for all Malawians. It was not, and is still not, compulsory but it was to be free. (Secondary is not free and still charges fees.) Before the change, there were apprx. 600,000 primary students in the country. After the change in the laws, there were 2.7 million! Joseph said that there were children under trees and anywhere else that they could be put. I can only imagine.

I greatly enjoyed drinking coffee and talking with Joseph. American education and Malawian education share some of the same noble goals and aims, but also some of the same difficulties and shortcomings. It sounded very familiar to hear him describe how often curricula and methods/models for education are changed before there is any chance to see if one set of ideas was better than another. Also the problem of big promises that are not given the adequate resources--financial and otherwise--needed to come close to fulfilling those promises.

I think someone like Joseph is going to be around for awhile and will hopefully have the opportunity to impact many students and schools throughout his teaching career. He is getting a good education at ABC! I trust the Lord will use him and many like him throughout this country.

My hat goes off to students like Joseph.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dzaleka Refugee Camp Dowa Diststrict, Malawi

Some Ethiopian refugees
Malawi is called "The Warm Heart of Africa." This title is well earned! Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, not just in Africa, but it is very peaceful, safe and hospitable. The people are kind and helpful. However, there is another reason that they deserve to be known as "The Warm Heart of Africa."  Malawi has given generous help to her beleaguered fellow Africans from war torn parts of central and eastern Africa: Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia.

Scharlie and Sam waiting for the music to start.

In 1989 1.2 million Mozambican refugees were taken in during a period of severe crisis. That means 1 out of 10 people in Malawi were refugees! Not only did the Malawian government and people allow them to come into the country until such time as they could peacefully return to Mozambique, but within a few years, they were all resettled! This is an amazing feat. Then as now, the refugee aid was being administered by the UNHCR--United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
             The Emmanuel Full Gospel Choir

On 20 November, the Carlisles [including Gwen and Sam] and about 50 African Bible College students, ABC professors, ABC Christian Academy and Clinic staff drove 1.5 hours to the Dzaleka Refugee camp. This trip was organized by one of the college students. We were able to drive two students in our car and had a nice time getting to know them on the way there and back. Normally when I think of a refugee camp, I think of lots of tents, temporary shelters, feeding lines, and people waiting to go back home. The Dzaleka Refugee Camp is more like a permanent village. The people are not going anywhere anytime soon. Many have been there 10 years or more. Some do not remember their age when they left their homes, but have since married and started their own families while at the camp.

                            Soccer Skills!!

The purpose of our trip was just to take time to listen to people’s stories and find out more about them and try to encourage them. The College's super talented Mingoli Singers were going to be putting on a concert followed by a time of preaching. So as we talked to the people, we also wanted to invite them to the concert and preaching time. We set out in groups of 6-8 total--the college students were mixed with the ABC staff folks. We had our four plus four students in our group. Many of the people at the camp would learn Chichewa, but maybe not English. The first language of most of the refugees would be some form of Swahili. The people would speak to the translator in Swahili, and translate into Chichewa for the college students, and then they would translate into English for us. Then the process would be reversed if we had a question to ask or wanted to contribute to the conversation. We were able to speak with two women. The first had been young when she left the Democratic Republic of Congo and had been married at the camp and had two children. The other woman that we met had started out in Burundi and fled to the DRC. While she was in the DRC she was seriously abused by a group of soldiers and contracted AIDS as well as other chronic health problems from their treatment. She then had to flee from there and came to Malawi. It had been over ten years since she left Burundi. She told us that had accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. I asked her what portion of the Bible or what story from the Bible that comforted here most. She mentioned the story about the woman with the bloody issue. She said that she had experienced many times that the Lord had helped  her when the doctors were not able to.

     Jonathan Robson preaching (ABC professor)

There were other hard things about the camp.  The main preacher was corrupt. Because the college student who organized the trip did not bribe him, he rented the building where the band was supposed to play and hid the few nicer tents. This guy dressed to the nines, while lots of the people were in rags. That was really discouraging. Talking to the students who rode with us on the return trip, we learned what their food allowances included. It was something like: 15kg of flour per family per month (regardless of the size of the family) and 1 cup of sugar for the same. There was more that I can’t remember, but there are also problems with distribution, i.e. corruption. They are in the middle of nowhere, not close enough to get transport for jobs. There are so few jobs anyway, a refugee would never be given one over a Malawian. There are only three ways out: 1. The first is for your homeland to be peaceful enough to go back to. But even then, you have to have the resources to get there. You have to be on good terms with the current government. You have to have somewhere to go, and your land may have been confiscated and your family displaced or killed. 2. Your host country allows you to assimilate. This only happens, usually if they have the means (which Malawi does not) or if you have a specialized skill (nurse, doctor, etc.) 3. Another country can sponsor them. This too, is unlikely, as there are about 10,000 people in the camp and the leadership at the camp determines who gets picked for those small groups. You can imagine what it would take to convince them you are “eligible.”  So, most of these people are stuck, indefinitely. There is a lot of hopelessness, and yet, there are those spreading the hope of the Gospel all the time. We would like to go back. The student is trying to form a relationship between the college and the camp, so that there are opportunities for ministry there.
Gwen and Sam did well too. They walked around with us and played with some of the kids ( to whom they could not speak).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Malawi by the Numbers

Here are just a selection of somewhat random facts:
(For reference 1000 Malawi kwatcha (MK) is roughly equivalent to $6.oo). Badly inflated currency is a little inconvenient to use.

Instant coffee costs about $7 per half pound or MK1200 per 200 grams (Africafe is the preferred instant brand. It is still instant, but noticeably better than Nescafe).
Regular coffee costs about $5.45/pound or MK1800 per kilogram. One of the small but pleasant surprises about being here is that the coffee is much better than previously reported to me. A number of different brands of coffee grown in Malawi can be purchased. I have become a fan of the Mzuzu Specialty Coffee. (The cheapest place to buy it is at the Cross-Roads BP station. It is about MK300 less than anywhere else.)
Coffee consumption-I have never kept track of my coffee consumption before, but thought it would be interesting. From 21/11/10-11/12/10(4:09 pm as I am writing) I have drunk 122 cups of either brewed or instant coffee! (51 one instant cups and 71 cups of brewed coffee). 5.8 cups/day the avg. The least drunk in one day was 3 and the most was 11 (2 times) followed by 10 and 9!
Cheddar cheese costs about $6/lb, mozzarella is about the same.
By contrast,  produce:
  -potatoes MK100 per "bundle" (about 10 sm.-med.) (if you're a regular customer and you buy more
     than one bundle, often they will throw in more out of a large pile)
  -lettuce MK 50 per small head
  -onions MK 50-100 per bundle (three large or about 6 small)
  -green peppers MK 50-100
  -green beans MK 50 per bundle (very fresh and good)
  -carrots MK 50-100 per bundle (depending on their size)
  -bananas MK 150-200 per bunch
  -enormous mushrooms (saw these for the first time this week) MK 500 for 3-4
  - strawberries MK250-350 per cardboard tray
  -fresh garlic MK 100 for a small bag
  -but apples are MK50-70 per apple (they're imported from South Africa)
Milk fresh milk(which is dispensed from a stainless steel drum or a (clean, we hope) garbage can depending on when you get there) is MK130/litre. UHT milk in the box with a long shelf life is 300/litre. (I will let you work on your conversion skills with this one.)
Bread (always fresh) MK115 per loaf
Ground beef or "mince" is about $8/lb.
Boneless skinless Chicken breasts are about $1.50/lb
Cornflakes costs about $3.3/lb or MK1200/kg.
Petrol/gas is $5.86/gal. or MK256/litre
Clear packing tape is $8 per roll!!!!
Fuel Economy The Carlisles are the proud owners of a 1997 Toyota Ipsum. This is a cross between a station wagon and a mini-van. 18.7mpg or 80kpl.
Front page news is when the Malawian Government is accused of steeling MK 6 million or about $36,000 from one of the political parties! There is not much going on here!
More front page news there is a shortage of subsidized fertitliser which is very important to the average Malawian. However, the Minister of Agriculture assures the people that according to his records 95% of all the subsidized fertiliser has been distributed. Therefore, it is impossible for there to be a shortage!
Commuting times on the way to work it takes me about 4 minutes and the return trip is 6 minutes (it's only up-hill one way)
Malawian currency's largest bank note is the MK500. This is rather inconvenient since a shopping trip usually requires taking MK30,000. (This translates into three little rubber-banded stacks of 20 bills each). You always feel like you're carrying too much money.
Conversion rates for USD to MK: At the ForEx with cash MK175-180 (depending on the amount) per $1; ATM/Bank transfer 150 per dollar; transfer from support account in states to academy to a check 165 per dollar.