I should also note that this school is NOT typical of schools in Malawi! It's one of the best schools in the country...thank you, Fulbright Scholarship educational stipend! Lilongwe is the capital city, so lots of people who work at the embassies send their kids here. Public schools here aren't that great; there are often over 100 students per teacher in primary grades and very few materials. Anyone who can afford to sends their children to private schools. Emma's class is going to visit a public school next week during a class trip, and she's promised to do a blog post about what she sees.)
|Flags from many countries at BMIS. Malawi's flag is the first one on the left.|
At BMIS they call kindergarten Year 1. Joel would be in 7th grade in the US but at BMIS he's in Year 8, and Emma is in Year 6 instead of 5th grade.
They have classmates from Ghana, South Africa, Cuba, Japan, Ireland, Britain, USA, India, Germany, Netherlands, Britain, India, and Malawi, plus a couple others that Joel can't remember.
The teachers are from all over too. Emma's main teacher is from New Zealand but she taught in Thailand before coming here. She also has teachers from India, Australia, USA, South Africa; Joel's teachers are from Ireland, Britain, South Africa, USA, some possibly some Eastern European country
Lots of kids know different languages but everyone just speaks English at school. Except for Mrs. Benson, Joel's maths teacher, who often says "Sibwino choncho" or "That is not good!" Last year apparently her favorite phrase if you forgot your homework was "I will kill you slooowly!" in her very South African accent. All the groundskeepers and custodians speak Chichewa to each other.
It's not a boarding school, so the students don't live at the school. Most of the kids are dropped off by their parents or a chauffeur. Some bike and walk, but not very many. There are some houses on one side of the grounds for teachers to live in.
They get picked up by us parents, but get dropped off by the Bunda bus. The Bunda College of Agriculture has a bus they send in to the city of Lilongwe a couple times a day. Some faculty live at Bunda and send their kids to school in the city on the bus; when the bus returns to Bunda it brings faculty and staff who live in the city. Lots of college students use the bus too. Joel and Emma have to be heading out the door at 5:45 a.m. to catch the bus! There are other girls about Emma's age who ride the bus to a different school. Joel wishes Emma and those girls would stop singing songs on the bus...he says they're very annoying.
Normally Bunda College uses one large bus but it broke down the second time we rode it, so now they use two small buses until the big one is fixed. It's been more than a month...Emma thinks they must be trying to get repair parts from Mars!
There are lots of British words used at the school: tuck shop (where you buy food), maths instead of math, literacy instead of reading, queue instead of line up.
The tuck shop has a couple of hot meal options to buy every day, but you can also buy soft drinks and candy. They have international dishes as well as British and American foods, like hot dogs, steak and kidney pies, pizza which is pretty popular, spring rolls which Joel really likes, and noodles. You can also get Malawian nsima and beans. Nsima is like really stiff mashed potatoes but it's made from corn flour. You grab it with your fingers and scoop up other food with it. Joel says you're supposed to queue up at the tuck shop, but it's often "every man for himself."
|The tuck shop - no walls or windows!|
|The queue to buy food at the tuck shop is a lot shorter after school than during breaks!|
They wear uniforms to school, a white collared shirt with the BMIS logo and navy pants or skirts. For physical education class, the "P.E. kit" is black or navy shorts and a BMIS P.E. shirt with no collar. Don't forget your trainers (sneakers)!
|It was the end of the day when we took this picture so maybe they were too tired to smile!|
Soccer is huge here but it's called football. They also have something called netball, which is sort of like basketball but you can't dribble and run with the ball, you just have to pass it.
Classrooms don't look that different what they had in the US, except they're not connected by indoor hallways. You have to go outside to go between classrooms. They have both seen geckos in several classrooms and we've both caught them. But they've never seen any other students catching geckos. And once a pair of swallows got stuck in Joel's science class room and couldn't find their way out, so they just flew around the ceiling.
|A row of classrooms on the secondary school side of the grounds.|
|Joel thinks the lockers are too small to be much use, so he hasn't bought a key for one.|
|Joel's main classroom for homeroom - but his homeroom teacher is called his "form tutor" here.|
Another different thing about the curriculum: Joel has drama class. They have drama, music, and art each for a third of the year. Joel takes Spanish and Emma has French class. Joel misses tech ed (shop class) and family & consumer sciences (home ec) - they aren't taught here. He does have a computer class, and "humanities" class which is geography and social studies.
Something else that's different is that the school doesn't have a band or orchestra. We've been told it's really hard to get instruments here. A few of the high school seniors have a rock band, but that's all there is. In general there's a lot less interest in music here than in the schools we used to go to. The entire secondary school choir is less than ten people, and Joel is the only boy!
There are after school and optional break-time (recess) activities. Emma has choir at second break on Thursdays, Spanish dance after school on Thursdays, and karate on Mondays. Joel has choir after school on Mondays, chess at break on Wednesday, and world drumming at break on Thursday.
One last detail: the school was named after a Church of England bishop who came to work in Malawi at the request of the famous Dr. Livingstone. He opposed the slave traders who were devastating the area but he died after only a couple of years. He was traveling by river and caught malaria, then their boat with all the medicines sank and he died.
And now for a few pictures of the school grounds, because they're really pretty with lots of flowering trees:
What's life like in Malawi? The first thing Emma mentions is power and water outages! We are writing this in the dark. There have been a lot of outages the last couple weeks. Joel says: life is nice here, and interesting. We're amused by all the roadside vendors selling strawberries, silverware, puppies, live chickens, dried mice on a stick for a snack, and even Malawian and Zambian passports. (Fake, we assume!) Emma says: Life is really interesting here! You never know what you're going to see on the bus ride to school.