Time really slips away here. There’s always so much to do just to exist. I couldn’t let today go by without painting a picture of our last day in Masonga. My previous post showed our arrival in a small village with a warm reception and days spent with families. Our last was spent much differently. (I chose not to take photos of the school out of respect for the community allowing us in their space)
Led by the chief we walked through small trails lined by crops of cassava and maize and curious families coming out to see where we were going. We arrived at a small structure consisting of a 2 foot mud perimeter and a thinly laid thatch roof. Two men emerge followed by children to great our group and introduce themselves as the towns teachers. They are kind and welcoming, as per usual with Malawians. One is in his 70s and has taught as a volunteer for longer than I’ve been alive.
The answers to the questions we ask are a bitter pill to swallow. They tell us that in this place they teach over 200 students and my mind genuinely can’t wrap around the idea that this many children can fit in the space, let alone learn. There are no desks. No chairs. No books. No floor. No walls. In place of a chalkboard, there is a wood plank with barely visible words written. The children are patiently sitting inside with us while we ask questions and we are met with the usual stares and bashful smiles.
I feel myself overcome with emotion for the first time here and hide behind my sunglasses so my watery eyes don’t give me away. I don’t think these resilient and proud people deserve to feel pity, but as far as basic fundamental human needs are concerned, every single one of them deserves more. It’s not our choice where we are born or what circumstances we are given to overcome and I guaranfuckingtee none of us have had to persevere through hardships such as the people I’ve met as of late.
The teachers lead us to a plot of land covered with newly laid bricks made from soil and the elders of the community join in. We split in to groups as they tell us the plans for years to come. Four neighboring communities will donate their time to create 5,000 bricks so they are able to build a school that will better suit the children’s needs, or at least be functional for when there is inclement weather.
However, in a place where you work to just exist, this takes time. The ministry of education proposed the plan to send a newly trained government teacher Masonga with a plan to have the school built in 2018. The volunteer teacher will then use the small palapa hut to host the many preschool aged children that are in need. Life then comes full circle. In the back of my mind I know the likelihood of completion in this time frame is unlikely but to feel the hope and pride from the community members gave me a boost of hope for them. The secondary school will be in the works next.
We end our day playing copycat for what seems hours then make our way back to the fireside on the beach. The camp starts to fill with children at the borders. Some play soccer with their homemade plastic wrapped ball, a kite made from a trash bag, a jump rope of old fishing net.
And as if there was a silent alarm, they took formation and end our stay with a ceremony of traditional song and dance. What was, at the beginning of the trip, an overwhelming sound is comfort and fills the camp with a calm as the sun slips away.