Education is said to be a solution to many problems as evidenced in many developing, not talk of already developed countries. Educated citizens contribute to meaningful and sustainable development of their families as well as their countries. However, the standards of education in many African countries are very low. Malawi is no exception.
Another challenge which has stagnated in the poor African nation for years is access to health care services. Malawians can hardly access good and quality healthcare services. Poverty levels are so high so much that many Malawians live under less than a dollar per day – making it difficult to access even basic education and healthcare services.
The Malawi government is taking all possible measures to avert the situation. However, as the population continues to grow at an alarming rate, the status quo is even worse at present. Education standards and healthcare services in government institutions remain poor. The two most important sectors are facing perennial challenges including inadequate resources. Consequently, often times, there is crisis in the health and education sectors in Malawi.
The need for collaborative efforts between government and the private sector can never be overemphasized. . Of late, many non-governmental organisations (both local and international) have intervened in a bid to improve affordable quality education and healthcare in Malawi. One of these non-governmental organisations is Muslim Hands, an international aid agency which opened a school in Mkwanda Village, Traditional Authority Likoswe in Chiradzulu District, to enable the community have access to quality and affordable education.
“We believe not only in giving education but quality education. We focus much on vulnerable children mainly orphans who are subject to neglect, torture, and other challenges. We have lower classes up to standard 3 with over 180 children registered so far in the upcoming academic year,” Muslim Hands country Directory Shakil Sedat told Malawi Muslims Official Website.
At the start of the new academic year, Sedat said his organisation provides every child with two sets of school uniform, shoes, socks, breakfast, lunch and other learning materials.
“Our aim is to make sure that every child has access to equal education opportunities and our community inclusion program makes this possible. We have our orphan welfare offices in different villages which we use to identify the needy children. In areas where we don’t have these offices, we conduct community need assessment. Despite the Muslim name, we help everyone regardless of their background or religious ideologies because we know we are all human beings first,” he said.
In February this year, Muslim Hands in collaboration with Chiradzulu District Health Office (DHO) also introduced a Community Medical Outreach Program at the school in order to reduce challenges that members of the community were facing in accessing healthcare services.
Thokozani Chikapa, Muslim Hands Child Welfare Officer who is also in charge of the school and the medical outreach program said the program was basically introduced to improve school enrollment and attendance.
“Upon seeing that the attendance has been dropping down among the children, we found out that illness was a key issue and to access medical clinic or going to the government hospital was not easy for many of them because of distance. In this case that’s why we thought it would be wise to work with the DHO to start a mobile clinic at our school. But since it is a clinic, everyone is able to benefit from it – not only children and so far we have seen improvement in the school attendance,” she said.
According to Thokozani, since the opening of the clinic, over 2,500 people have benefited so far and that plans are under way to open more clinics.
She said: “There is a need. Many people can’t still afford to access the healthcare services even here. So we need to open more clinics in this district to reach more people.”
In his remarks, HIV/AIDS Coordinator at Chiradzulu District Hospital Mr. Nelson Chakwiya commended their cordial relationship with Muslim Hands saying since the introduction of the clinic, there has been a lot of improvement regarding the rate of people who access good health care services.
“It was indeed not easy for everyone to visit private clinics or government hospitals because of distance. But with the introduction of this clinic, things have really improved. Even the number of people who want to know their HIV status is increasing,” he said.
Mr. Chakwiya said the hospital provides staff and medicine while Muslim Hands provide transport and other necessities.
Established in 1993 in Nottingham, United Kingdom, Muslim Hands is an international aid agency and NGO – currently working in over 56 countries. It has field offices in over 27 of these countries including Malawi. In Malawi, the organisation started its operations in 2013 with much focus on education, healthcare, water & sanitation, and income generating activities for the rural poor.