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.