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A Field of Dreams

"If you build it, he will come."

It's possible that nearly 100% of the children in Malawi have never heard of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson or watched the 1989 Hollywood classic "A Field of Dreams." But many do know what it means to go without shoes and other basic elements of life that we take for granted in the United States. Like going to secondary school.

Malawi is one of the least educated countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. It did not implement free education until 1994. and that was only at the primary school level (grades 1-8). The impact of this change was actually negative, not positive. While the number of students attending primary school increased from 1.6 million to over 3 million, this influx of students created an immediate shortage of facilities, teachers and materials. So while all children have access to education, the qualify of education has actually declined. Not much has changed in 25 years.

The statistical reality for secondary school is even worse.

We just assume everyone will go to high school in America. In fact, it's compulsory in all states until at least 16 year of age. In Malawi, only 35% of the students complete primary school. Of those, just 40% go on to the next level. Out of 4.6 millions students in Malawi, only 8% actually complete secondary school. That is one of the many reasons Malawi struggles to become a more developed country.

The question is why?

The simple answer to a complex issue is access and equity. There aren't enough schools and the ones that exist are usually over crowded, under staffed, and lacking in critical resources and supplies (same issue as the primary schools). Students share outdated textbooks. Science labs and computers are rare. Almost half of the teachers are not fully qualified.

At Pothawira, there are almost 30 students who completed the primary school but could not be placed in public schools. So we send them to private schools. The math suggests that those numbers will grow each year. As will the cost. That's a problem we want to fix.

Here's the first step.

16 acres of level land just off the M5 north of Salima

Pothawira Malawi is in the process of purchasing 16 acres of property outside of Salima. The land is currently being used for agriculture. It is immediately off a main highway and about 15 kilometers from the Pothawira Village. We hope to complete the school design in the next few months and begin construction of Pothawira Academy this summer. If all goes well, it will open in September 2020.

Concept of Pothawira Academy layout

We hope you will join us in this adventure. Here's how you can start.

Close your eyes and imagine this empty field transformed into a secondary school for 400 students. Each grade level or Form has a separate wing. A state of the art lab allows the students to learn science through application. The computer lab gives them access to online courses and materials. Their English proficiency is superb. Training centers prepare kids who are not going to college for skilled trades and careers. Students gather in common areas under bright blue skies. A soccer pitch and netball field host games for championship teams. Highly qualified teachers live in staff homes on site. Dormitories house boys and girls from around the country. Each year the national radio announces the scores from the Malawi Certificate of Secondary Education exam. Pothawira Academy students are at the top.

That's the dream.

Can you hear the students' voices?

"If you build it, we will have a future!"

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