In 1990 a group of 10 youth from the First Presbyterian Church of Marion, Illinois, contacted Marion Medical Mission wanting to do something for a school in Malawi. Rev. Tembo, head of the Embangweni Mission Station at the time, took Tom Logan of Marion Medical Mission, to the village of Chizimya to meet with the village Headmen. They told Tom about the primary school they wanted to start and the 173 children being taught by an untrained teacher to whom they were paying the equivalent of 50 cents a day. The village Headmen told them that if they had a 4-room brick school-block with concrete floors and a corrugated tin roof along with two teacher houses, the government would provide two trained teachers. Rev. Tembo explained it was necessary to build the homes for the teachers because you could not expect a trained teacher to live in a mud hut. Tom asked what they needed. The village Headmen said “$2,500.00.” This would be a self-help project. The villagers would make the brick and provide the labor. They only needed the money to purchase the cement and roof tin.
The youth group took on this project and before the year was out, they had raised the $2,500.00 needed. The government officials in Malawi were so impressed by what this village had done, they gave them four trained teachers instead of the two requested. This was wonderful not only for the village of Chizimya and their children, but for the youth group as well — they had participated in the feeding of the 5,000. The Chizimya Junior Primary School was a reality.
This village school has grown consistently over the years. It is now a full primary school (grades 1 through 8) with over 800 students, 11 trained teachers, 8 teacher homes, and a library-headmaster’s office.
Chizimya Full Primary School, started by Marion Medical Mission just a few years ago, provides one of the best primary school educations in the area. God’s grace and your gifts made this possible. Mr. Jere, headmaster, wrote on June 7, 1996, “I am very happy to let you know that the three additional teacher houses were completed in early April. The funds which you left have also been used for pointing and plastering the five old houses. They now look very beautiful indeed. Last school session was a good one for Chizimya. Eight pupils were selected for secondary education. We were number one in the zone of over 40 schools. God be praised for this.”
Thirty-six children come from far enough away that they live on the school grounds during the school week. The students built two mud huts, sleep on the ground, and prepare their own food, all for the chance to get a good education.
Several classes are still located outside under trees, and Mr. Jere says, “learning under trees becomes disturbed during the rainy season and cold times.” The parents have already started molding 250,000 bricks for three two-room school-blocks to accommodate an enrollment that has tripled in size. Marion Medical Mission hopes to complete one two-room school-block per year, finishing in 2003. The cost to build a two-room school block is approximately $6,000.00.
In 1998 we took the school a small solar panel for two solar lights so the students could study in the new library at night. Headmaster Jere says this makes them the only primary school in the area and, he believes, the country of Malawi, with electric power.
The new carpentry class is building desks and benches for all the classrooms.
Every year when Marion Medical Mission’s team visits the school, they are treated to a tour and wonderful celebration that starts and ends with prayer. The students work hard to prepare the program. The entertainment includes dramas, dances, singing, and speeches by the Village Headman, the school Committee Chairman, the Headmaster, and a visitor. At the end of the ceremony, the school children present Marion Medical Mission with a gift. Once it was a live goat the children had purchased by working in gardens.
We are proud of what the Chizimya Full Primary School has accomplished. The teacher homes, school blocks, library-headmasters office are simple, but neat and obviously cared for with pride. The school grounds are spotless. This school testifies to God’s guiding hand, although overcrowded and in need of supplies, children come, searching, eager to learn, anticipating the opportunities education might provide – our cup overflows. How wonderful God is!