Mwatandala from Malawi, the warm heart of Africa! My name is Josh Schroeder, one of the lucky undergraduates from the University of Dayton selected to participate in this year’s Malawi Research Practicum on Rights and Development. On behalf of Determined to Develop, the practicum offers my classmates and I the unique opportunity to spend the summer here in Malawi, conducting research and collaborating on a handful of projects aimed at empowering local communities and advancing development-related initiatives.
Over the past few weeks, I have been spearheading a research project that examines access to secondary education in Malawi. More specifically, it explores how Determined to Develop (D2D) can work to increase access to and equity of secondary education for youth in the region. As one of the most important resources a young person can have, education acts as a fundamental step in breaking the cycle of poverty and empowering young individuals. With this in mind — and with help from stakeholders far and near — D2D will be building a new secondary school in the TA Wasambo area in Northern Malawi, sparking educational opportunity for young learners not only in the local communities, but from all over the country as well.
Specifically, my project is working towards providing D2D with useful tools that can be used to ensure the new school will address local needs and conditions, as well as provide future students with an education that is holistic, comprehensive, and empowering. Mentoring me in this process is D2D staffer, Geoff Mzembe, a qualified teacher and native Malawian. Geoff provides invaluable insight into the education system here in Malawi.
Day-to-day, our work ranges from collecting updated statistics on primary school pass rates to determining best practices of secondary schools currently operating in Malawi; from meeting with government officials to interviewing local teachers. This past week, Geoff and I ventured deep into the rice fields of rural Malawi and met with a head teacher that explained to us the common barriers that exists that make it difficult for young students to pass primary school and continue their education at secondary school. We also visited Karonga — the center of our district — and met with the District Education Manager, a government official responsible for overseeing all of the schools in the district. Showing optimism for the progress that has been made for education in Malawi, he provided insight into how D2D’s new secondary school can be successful.
In the past weeks, I have accumulated a large amount of helpful data and information that I am anxious to study, organize and formulate into useful material for D2D to move forward. I have visited some of the best schools in the country and met with individuals — young and old, male and female — that, against all odds, are overcoming obstacles and redefining cultural norms in the name of educating and empowering the youth of Malawi.
by University of Dayton student Josh Schroeder
Malawi Research Practicum on Rights & Development