February 20, 2016
I realize I haven’t written much about the male population in Malawi, so it is probably time. The entire society is full of hard working, driven people trying as hard as they can to find food every day. This drive renders issues like education or beautifying/preserving landscape as, at best, secondary or tertiary interests. People are intelligent, quite clear in their thinking, and sad as they destroy their environment to survive the day. As I volunteer in the school and toss around vocabulary intended to teach English while molding environmental zealots, I am struck by how determined the “learners” are to both learn English and to be “treekeepers.” They accompany me to the mountain to plant and help in any way and they proudly show me trees and other living plants they are carrying to school in the morning to beautify their lives. But, I am told, these efforts at planting at the school occur annually during rainy season and, in the barren schoolyard, there is no sign of any previous planting. Dry season with no water and a hungry herd of goats (they “attend” school as much as many of the learners) erases traces of tender seedlings quickly. So, what to do as everyone intends to do “the right thing” but gets carried away in the daily struggle?
One answer is education, which is what we at Go! Malawi promote and sponsor. The system here is based on the English model with exams determining who goes on to secondary school as well as post-secondary training. The boys and girls I work with have equally high aspirations and work equally hard. The two highest achievers in my class are boys. But, as I make my morning rounds on the bicycle, I see an inordinate number of men — both young and old — hanging out in the trading center. The teenagers bear a remarkable resemblance to teen boys in our country with their jeans and hats (some rakishly askew), but they have an innocence about them that makes them very loveable. And, they are not in school and there is only manual labor with a hoe to be done here in the hills. Proving one’s manhood is a challenge as driving is not an option, and jobs with money don’t happen, so that leaves girlfriends and making babies. Young women with babies on their backs are everywhere and would not be if boys were not contributing sperm. So the cycle continues — find food, eat food, go to bed and start again. These boys have either failed their exams or not had funding to go on with their educations, so they are stuck, literally, in the whirlpool of life in the country. I can see the light of excitement gradually go out as I look in the eyes of 15 to 25 year olds. Somewhere during that period, they realize that whatever hopes and aspirations they had are vanishing, if not gone. These are not lazy fellows, but they are discouraged to be sure. That is some more of the news from Malawi.
(c) 2013 Go! Malawi. All rights reserved. Go! Malawi, PO BOX 108, Hebron, Maine 04238