For two months each year, Determined to Develop (D2D) hosts a collaboration of budding human rights and development students from the US and Malawi, who collaborate with each other to conduct valuable research into D2D’s key programming areas. The University of Dayton’s Malawi Practicum program and the University of Livingstonia’s community development department send students to delve into hot topic areas, with the end result of developing informed and purposeful research which contributes to D2D’s knowledge base; ultimately strengthening program design and delivery.
Climate Change and Sustainability, by Gillian Foster
One of the most destructive forces to inhabitants of developing countries, including Malawi, is climate change. This largely human caused phenomenon has been the culprit of devastating floods, droughts, high winds and rising temperatures. The changing weather patterns mean families are often left without a means to support themselves, questioning the notion of ‘sustainable livelihoods’.
Like other developing countries, resources in Malawi are being stretched to try and accommodate a vastly expanding population, depleting finite assets. Forests are dwindling. Native grasses that are used for thatching are being replaced with farmland and homes. Fish are disappearing with the increase of fishermen and the illegal practice of fishing during breeding season. Together, climate change and unsustainable practices have made Malawi a harder place to live.
Two UNILIA students, Farlington and Robert, and I spent 8 weeks collecting information about how climate change and sustainability are affecting members of the local community. By interviewing teachers and students, teaching practices and overall knowledge of the subject has been gleaned. And by contacting NGOs and government departments, common practices and actions taken to address climate change have been explored, assessed, and compared with the needs of the population.
Many organizations have been focusing on reforestation projects. Trees can help mitigate floods and protect homes from the wind, although they are commonly deforested for firewood, building and fishing boats. There are some firewood alternatives which can curb the rate of deforestation, such as using charcoal (a 2 month supply of firewood can be stretched into 5 months in charcoal form) or rice husk briquettes, however the overall interest that villagers have in contributing to slowing the speed of climate change is low.
People need food and medicine now, not wait ten or more years for a tree to grow. They need fertilizer for their wasted fields and irrigation systems to water them. With all these immediate concerns, climate change and sustainability are the last issues on people’s minds. With this research, D2D is better equipped with a local understanding of these issues. It can work to balance and satisfy not just the short term needs, but address the long term ones as well. Understanding the complex needs and possible solutions is half the battle, and one we are willing to fight.
NGO Effectiveness in the Chilumba Region, By Nick Beatty
In development work, there is never a finished product, only one more project completed. D2D recognizes that through their endeavors to create improved livelihoods for those in the surrounding community, understanding ways that the organization can operate successfully are paramount. NGO productivity and effectiveness has been a hot topic over the past two decades. A mixture of factors mean that NGOs can be less effective than they care to admit (operating on shoestring budgets, lack of resources, etc), often omitting failures from their reporting. However, admitting failure means that non-profits can share their experiences and learn from one another, using identified unsuccessful practices as a catalyst for doing things better.
I worked with Livingstonia’s Barton Theo to conduct a case study of D2D and the Chilumba catchment area. Questions such as: ‘What are the reasons donor-driven projects fail?’ ‘What are the successful practices of NGO outreach to donors?’ and ‘How can NGO’s be more effective?’ have been investigated by collecting information from local village chiefs and project managers from various organizations. We also dug into the internal processes of D2D to assess how they can become more effective by making changes to how they conduct daily business practices. As D2D strives to have a strong commitment towards their community, staying informed about the best ways to maintain success will help the organization to create practices that not only help themselves, but help propel the communities to achieve upward mobility.
Informal Education at Wasambo High School, By Claire Darrow
In less than two months, the much-anticipated Wasambo High School will open its doors to 80 eager Form 1 students. This new, all-boys boarding school will model its staff, curriculum, and approach to learning in a hybrid US-Malawi fashion—taking the best practices in education to develop students in a holistic manner addressing mind, body, and spirit. Wasambo High School hopes to create a culture of life-long learning for its future students, where the mission is to deliver the highest quality education experience where students can thrive and reach their fullest potential. Wasambo High School is focused on educating students in a climate that cultivates a passion for learning and a desire to be extraordinary. As student life is crucial to the school’s structure, it has been the goal this summer of Determined to Develop and Wasambo staff, as well as professors and student interns from The University of Dayton (USA) and University of Livingstonia (Malawi) to develop a school structure, rigorous academic schedule, and an extracurricular program that will be developmentally responsive in focusing on transitions for students, meeting all learning needs and providing for healthy socialization.
A component of this task was developing an informal curriculum in the form of enrichment classes that will emphasize skills and thinking with a learner centric approach, opposed to traditional Malawian classrooms where a teacher-centric environment means students have fewer opportunities for socialization and authentic learning experiences.
Often, schools in Sub- Saharan Africa fail to prepare young people for the world of work and omit teaching essential values, attitudes and life skills. The informal curriculum will allow students to explore issues and topics that are pertinent to their lives as successful adolescents. Research shows that extracurricular programs like the one at Wasambo High School positively affect youth, as they are correlated with better grades, positive relationship-building, positive emotional and behavioral adjustment and skills building.
The goal of the informal education curriculum at Wasambo High School is to provide students with enrichment activities that promote development in a wholesome way, facilitating the building of social, health, and economic assets in a safe and fun learning environment. Students are equipped with skills and knowledge to be empowered in their school and community as leaders. Topics involve the more basic “life skills” curriculum most Malawian students take in secondary school, but are expanded with active and extended learning activities, as well as lessons in business studies and computer studies derived from the traditional Malawian syllabi and international resources. It aims to translate information about a variety of topics (such as self-esteem, leadership and teamwork, study skills, saving and budgeting, entrepreneurship, speech and debate, sexual education, and more) into interactive and dynamic exchanges with students. In addition to this weekly program, students have access to a full afterschool schedule of athletics, clubs, and extended learning opportunities.
By emphasizing rich student-life activities after school and throughout the weekend, students will understand the importance of academics, life skills, and computer and business assets and grow as individuals who approach problems—academic and societal—proactively and confidently. Additionally, Wasambo High School aims to stand as a successful exemplary model of learner-centered education and extended learning in Malawi, inspiring and empowering other educators and administrators in the area for years to come.