November 15 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Ayrshire efforts in Malawi seen first hand

By Beth Knight-Townsley

A group of pupils and staff from St Matthew’s Academy in Saltcoats learned a great deal from visiting a small town in Malawi called Mzuzu last month.

The group travelled to Malawi from October 4-13 and visited St Peter’s Secondary School in Mzuzu, which Bernadette McFadden, a former teacher at St Matthews’s now working at St Benedict’s High, has helped St Matthew’s build links with.

“As a school community we are extremely proud of our ongoing partnership with our sisters and brothers in the parish of St Peter’s in Mzuzu, Malawi,” Stephen Colligan, St Matthew’s headteacher, said. “This partnership goes to the heart of the Catholic values which we as a school community are trying to instill in our young people. The partnership was originally started by Bernadette McFadden a Maths teacher who worked in St Peter’s School for a year and has continued to go from strength to strength. This is now our third visit to St Peter’s, Mzuzu as a school group and we have also organised and supported two groups of pupils and teachers  from St Peter’s on visits to Scotland. We are hoping to have another group from St Peter’s come in the near future.”

The St Matthew’s group was accompanied throughout the visit by local Malawian priests Fr Philip and Fr Edmund. Group members were welcomed to the town by Bishop Joseph Mukasa Zuza of Mzuzu, who celebrated Mass for them.

The group was given a tour of the area around St Peter’s parish before visiting the school. They were impressed at the amount of supplies the school had, some of which had been given by St Mary’s Primary School in Largs and St Mark’s Primary School in Irvine.

They were taken into the staffroom, which until 2009 was the smallest classroom, to meet the teachers. The group also visited Marymount Secondary, the top Catholic girls’ school in the area, and Lucalazi Secondary. The St Matthew’s community pays the fees for 27 pupils at Lucalazi.

A diary kept by students from St Matthew’s during the trip revealed how different education is for young people in Malawi. “Secondary education in Malawi is not compulsory and has to be paid for,” the diary records. “A young person can leave primary school in Malawi and never return to education, or do so later.”

Fr Philip later took the Scottish teachers and students to the Mary Martha Orphanage, a safe place where orphaned children can go and get food, speak to other children in the same circumstances and seek advice from older members of the community.

While in Malawi, the group visited to St John’s Hospital where they donated syringes, catheters and bandages that they had brought over from Scotland. They spent time with six new mums in the post natal ward and gave them packs with clothes for their new babies.

The school raised funds before the trip and decided to split the money raised between buying books for St Peter’s Secondary; giving money for food at the Women’s Development Centre.


— Beth Knight-Townsley, from Our Lady’s High School, Motherwell, reported on this story while gaining work experience in the SCO’s Glasgow newsroom.




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