Malawi- The warm heart of Africa


About the size of England. At the southern end of the Rift Valley. Bordered by Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. The ‘Switzerland of Africa’ with mountains reaching 3,300m and 4 lakes. Lake Malawi is approximately the days of the year long and the weeks of the year wide. Warm, wet summer November - March. Cool and dry April – October. This year’s rain stopped in January causing the worst famine in living memory.

Population 12 million. The most densely populated country in Africa, except for Rwanda, Burundi and Nigeria. Approximately 80% live in rural areas. Compared with:

• S Africa 3½ times as many people per sq. Km

• Zimbabwe 4 “ “ “ “ “ “ “

• Zambia 8 “ “ “ “ “ “ “

Nearly all African, apart from a handful of Europeans and Asians in business, tobacco, tea estates and NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations).

Religions Until the mid-19th century Malawians followed African Traditional Religion. Today approximately 65% are Christians, 15% Muslim, 20% African Traditional Religion.

Economy Malawi is land-locked with an agricultural economy, there are no minerals or oil. The main export crops are tobacco, tea, and sugar. 4% of the population have access to electricity.

GNI (Gross National Income) £97 per person per year.

(UK = £16,329). A bicycle in Malawi costs the same as a bicycle in Britain. Computers are more expensive in Malawi.

HDI (Human Development Index) – this includes life expectancy, adult literacy, school enrolment and GNI, lists 177 countries and has Malawi at 165. Most of the 12 poorer countries have had wars, which Malawi has never had.

“Working Class” are the fortunate 15%, or so, who are in paid employment. The other 85% are subsistence farmers or small business entrepreneurs.

Salaries Government scales in August 2005:

• labourer in rural area: 32p per day; £7.68 per month

• labourer in urban area: 98p per day: £24 per month

• primary school headteacher: £71 per month

• secondary school headteacher £108 per month

• doctor £111 - £131 per month

Education Primary schools are free; secondary schools are all fee-paying. Primary school classes often number over 100. There is a chronic shortage of trained teachers in both primary and secondary schools. More teachers are dying of HIV/AIDS than are being trained.

Secondary school enrolment – 39%, female 29%. There are three universities, two of which are new and with a small number of students.

Adult literacy rate: male – 75%, female 47%.

Health Life expectancy is 38 (UK 78). Malaria and HIV/AIDs are the main killers. Orphans currently estimated to be 1m. Acute shortage of doctors – 1:100,000; dentists – 3 for 12m people; few nurses because of HIV/AIDS and the attraction to work in rich northern countries in order to send money home. Most hospitals and health centres have less than 50% of their staff allocation.

Malosa Secondary School

480 students – all boarders. Fees per year £84, which many students struggle to find. Bursaries are given to 92 students, most of whom are orphans. They have to perform and behave well or the bursary is withdrawn.

Government pays salaries of teachers. Should have 25 teachers but only have 15. Everything else has to be covered by fees received: textbooks, food, support staff salaries, electricity, building maintenance. Total annual budget for these items is £42,160. Money for students’ food is £47 per student per year.

The weekly menu:

Day Breakfast Lunch Supper

M maize porridge rice & beans nsima* & veg

T rice porridge nsima & dried fish nsima & beans

W maize porridge rice & beans nsima & veg

Th rice porridge nsima & meat nsima & veg

F maize porridge rice & beans nsima & veg

Sa maize porridge nsima & veg nsima & veg

Su rice porridge nsima & veg nsima & beans

cup of tea (no milk or sugar) every other day; no fruit or bread

* Nsima is a stiff maize flour porridge

14 computers are shared between students and staff.