Malawi is a small, yet densely populated country in southern Africa. The country struggles with a rampant prevalence of HIV/AIDS and also ranks as one of the most impoverished countries in the world.
Despite this; however, its citizens remain one of the friendliest around, and their reputation as a kind and welcoming people have earned their country the nickname, “the warm heart of Africa.” ❤
Volunteer Teaching in Malawi
In speaking with the locals our group found an opportunity to volunteer at the local school, Kande Primary.The school has 1,800 children, with 10 teachers, and around 150-200 children per classroom. I chose to work with the fifth grade class, since I had the most experience with that age level. As I entered the classroom, the children all greeted me in unison with, “Good Morning, Madame.” I sat first to watch their teacher, Benson, give them a lesson in math.The topic of the day would be measurement.The children were very quiet and disciplined even though I was an obvious distraction. 🙂They began the lesson with the roll call. The class has an enrollment of 150, but today there were only 112. Benson said that a lot of times that illness or a family death is a common reason for absence. Afterwards the children were asked to measure the length of various lines in their math book.The first problem they ran into was that, out of the 112 children, because of expenses, only 7 had a ruler.
Sadly, because of their lack of basic supplies, Benson was forced to send the children hunting around the school to find anyone with a ruler. Anyway, after math, Benson let me take the floor for an English lesson. One of the first things I did was go around to all the children, ask them their name, age, and favorite fruit. In doing this I found out two interesting facts. First, the children were a wide range of ages, as young as 10 and as old as 15. This is because the children need to take an examination to test out of each grade, and many could not pass. Second, I found out that their favorite foods were 1 of 4 things: banana, mango, rice or sweet potato. This is interesting, considering most children in Western countries would say that junk food and sweets are their favorite treats, while these kids eat naturally off the land, only consuming healthy foods grown by their families. 🙂
After introductions I moved onto the lesson for the day, which was a poem. It was written to teach the difference between ‘can’ and ‘could’, but also, on a much larger scale, the message of the poem targeted the concerning socio-economic issues affecting the country. These books are issued by the Malawi government. There was 1 book for every 6 children.
I found the poem to be quite blunt, but also an effective means of teaching the children the importance of their education, and also the difficulties of an early marriage and uncontrolled pregnancy.After discussing the purpose of the poem, we answered a few comprehension questions, and then I wrapped up the lesson on a lighter note by playing hangman. Here we are goofing around at the end of the lesson. 😛
After teaching I went with the others in my group to check out the library. The materials had been donated throughout the years by numerous volunteers.After giving a small donation, the children began to walk with us back on their way home for lunch. 🙂As a side note, Kande Primary is always accepting volunteers, and they are willing to provide free accommodation in exchange for your time. 😀
Scuba Diving in Lake Malawi
Now an undisputed highlight of Malawi has to be its biodiverse freshwater lake, Lake Malawi. It covers 1/5th of the country and has the greatest number of fish species on Earth. ❤ It’s similar to Darwin’s discovery of Galapagos, as the inhabitants of this lake are a true showcase of our ever-evolving world. The most prevalent fish here is the cichlid, with over 1,000 species recorded, all with differing colors and markings.
To explore this biodiverse body of water I decided to do a one-tank scuba dive with Aquanuts.The company took me in an inflatable motorboat to the lake’s central island, where we began a 45-minute dive at a maximum depth of 12 meters.
Visibility was slightly cloudy, yet the dive sightings were unlike any I had seen before.Aside from the vibrant cichilds, we saw two sunken canoes, and a jeep that the company sunk about 10 years back after drinking too much hootch. 😛They got the idea to throw the car on a pontoon and sink it in the lake. The problem was that the jeep fell off half way out there, and they had to attach a pulley and steer it the rest of the way underwater using their scuba gear. 😮Here’s a short video of my dive near the jeep. 🙂
Now one of the most interesting things I saw were small concave sand dunes. Essentially the male cichlids build these underwater sand castles to attract females. After, they sit atop their creation and vibrate their bodies to show off. They are basically saying, “Hey, check me out! Look what I can build!” Hah! 😛Now Aquanuts not only offers diving and snorkeling, but they also operate the Maru Research Center, which monitors the numbers of fish species in the lake. Click here to find out more. 🙂
Cost: Scuba diving is 45 USD/dive and snorkeling is 15 USD.
While in Malawi our group stayed at Kande Beach Camp.Hanging with local kids on the beach. 🙂On our last night in Malawi, the beach camp staff roasted us a whole hog, which they served with ugali and squash. Ugali is a maize flour that is boiled into a thick porridge.Before heading out, we also managed to stock up on supplies at the local grocery stores. Stand out items included spinach pot pies, frosting donuts and canned chakalaka, which is a mix of tomatoes, onions and beans.Next up we headed through Zambia on our way to Zimbabwe. We encountered our first heavy rains of the season as well. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then. 🙂