Latest News

  • Volunteering as a teacher: Becky's story

    In this newsletter we are excited to share the experiences of Becky White from the UK who visited our school for four weeks in February.

    Becky had visited Malawi in 2014 and during that time had spent an afternoon at our school. However, following a turbulent ending to her year (2017), Becky decided to do a few things to kick-start a positive 2018. She organised herself in a few weeks, gathered up some resources, and stepped out of her comfort zone to volunteer at our school as a teacher. Becky’s presence injected fresh energy in the school’s daily activities. It was also very helpful for us to receive constructive feedback regarding how we can do things better. Her account of being at Chankhasi School is below. Enjoy!

    "You know, I have heard it said that if travel does one thing for you it’s provide perspective. I combined my travel with some sweet, engaging and excitable children, and a place that is known as the warm heart of Africa for a reason. Turns out, perspective is the very least that I came home with.

    At the end of 2017, after a pretty tough year, I decided to bite the bullet a leave a stressful job. After resigning I was put on garden leave (living the dream) which ultimately led me to spend a month in Nkhotakota, spending my days attempting to teach English and Expressive Arts at Chankhasi School and being looked after by the wonderful team at Nkhotakota Safari Lodge. Now that I am home I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else with my final month of freedom and I am very sad to have said goodbye.

    I am not a teacher, never have been, so on my way to Malawi I started to get very nervous and question why on earth I thought I would be well placed to try and teach English. I’m not going to lie, it was hard work getting to grips with controlling a class of 43 students who don’t speak the same language as you; but as the days went by the students got used to me and I realised what would make them sit up and pay attention. A few ways that I found were to (i) write instructions on the board – they could read it but not always understand me simply saying it, and (ii) get a red pen out. Turns out a red pen and a mark for their work was all the incentive required.

    I found that the children were really good at reading and could read most things out loud, but what we needed to work on was their understanding of words. So the team at the lodge helped me to translate a load of words that I’d read with the children into Chichewa so that we could work on both understanding the meaning and pronunciation. Hangman came in very handy, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Especially when they got the chance to be the leader writing on the board.

    I also taught Expressive Arts. What on earth is Expressive Arts I hear you say? My thoughts exactly. Well, the text book says it’s anything from putting on plays, to making costumes, to sports. Well I didn’t have anything with me for sewing or art and we couldn’t communicate enough to write plays. Thankfully I had brought some sports equipment with me, Spotify, a speaker and a few devices for taking pictures. So, in the main, for Expressive Arts we had photography lessons, learnt to sing ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams and had an amazing time playing rounders, volleyball and tennis. All of these activities were a hit.

    In terms of what the children got out of me being there, I would say that they gained exposure to a native English speaker and were able to work on their pronunciation. My lessons were quite interactive and I did my best to get them involved with leading activities and make the lessons learner centric so that they were taking responsibility for what they were learning. I think (or hope) that they also had as much fun as me in the lessons. For me though, I could see that for some, the biggest difference it made was being able to make a personal connection to someone from outside of their community. As far as possible in a teacher/ learner relationship, I treated them as equals and let them have control for learning. For example, in my final week, they were making the decisions about what we would do in our next lessons, and surprisingly enough they did want to keep learning the meanings from our list of words as well as playing volleyball!

    I have to admit that a few of those children stole my heart and I can’t imagine a world where I don’t go back to see how they are getting on. In the short four weeks that I was there I built some really strong bonds and some of them walked all the way to the lodge just to come and say goodbye. I really hope that I will get back to Nkhotakota to see them again one day. I also found that everyone locally was just so welcoming, kind and ready to embrace me being there. I met so many people from local lodge workers, football players and artists to parents of the students at the school and everybody took the time to stop and chat with me. It made me stop and think about how, here in London, we rush around going about our day and rarely make a connection with the people around us. If you are considering teaching English as a volunteer, this is such a great place to do it. The school is locally founded and managed and that’s what makes it so great. It truly is an example of a local community investing in its future".

    So there you have it. It goes without saying that both Becky and Chankhasi School benefitted from Becky’s volunteering experience. Thank you ever so much Becky! We sincerely hope that you will come back again to visit us.  

  • Chillies for Chankhasi

    To kick start our 2018 newsletters, we are very happy to share the news from “Chillies for Chankhasi”, a campaign based in Canterbury (Kent) UK. Watcharee and Andy Cooper have been growing, harvesting, drying and selling “Chillies for Chankhasi” since 2010. With donations from their colleagues at Mylan and Pfizer, in 2017 they raised nearly GBP (£) 800 in return for plants, chillies, chutney, jelly and jam in; this was their best year ever.

    Here are some statistics (2017) from the “Chillies for Chankhasi” campaign:

    • Number of chilli plants grown: 130
    • Total mass of chilli crop: 14 kg
    • Jars of chilli made: 100
    • Jars of chilli chutney made: 90


    Watcharee and Andy also grew a lot of fruit (gooseberries, jostaberries, blueberries, raspberries and crabapples) which they used to make over 100 jars of high quality jam.

    We are told that the most popular products are hot chilli chutney, scotch bonnet chilli jelly and raspberry jam.

    However, it’s not all smooth sailing for the “Chillies for Chankhasi” production line. In the winter months, the chillies grow slower because of the cold temperatures. Even in the greenhouse, in some winter months, the temperatures are just above freezing.

    We understand that Watcharee and Andy always tell themselves that they won't grow so many chillli plants next year! We at Chankhasi School are everso thankful to the “Chillies for Chankhasi” campaign and supporters for your generosity and for thinking of our school in your activities. Over the years, “Chillies for Chankhasi” donations have been used to fund a roof truss and desks. The most recent donation was put towards improving the infrastructure for finishing the first ‘Eco-Loo’ and expenses of paying salaries for the staff at Chankhasi School. 

  • Volunteering as a teacher: Thea's story

    This month we are excited to share the experience of a volunteer teacher at Chankhasi School. Thea Guy, from the UK, joined us in September and has just finished a term with us. Whilst visiting Malawi on a school charity trip with Open Arms in July 2016, Thea fell in love with the country and decided to return during her gap year. Thea has always enjoyed working with children and had considered going into teaching as a profession, returning to Chankhasi School was therefore the perfect opportunity. Here’s her account. Enjoy!


     "I arrived completely terrified and with absolutely no idea what to expect.  However, Andrew soon put me at ease and, after meeting all the other teachers, I felt like I was becoming part of a wonderful community. I was told that I would be teaching English and Life Skills in Standard 7 so that evening was spent trawling through the Teachers’ Guides trying to get to grips with what I was expected to teach the class!  With no teaching experience the first couple of weeks were a huge learning curve for me but after struggling through my first few lessons and trying to get to grips with how the school was run, I soon began to find my feet and started to really love going in each day.

    I cannot express how grateful I am to the learners in Standard 7 for welcoming this strange English girl into their classroom and for putting me so at ease. We really went through all the challenges of the first couple of weeks together as, while I was getting used to teaching and trying to explain what I wanted them to do, the class was having to get used to me and being given all their instructions in English as I had absolutely no Chichewa when I first arrived. After the first few weeks, however, we started to make progress and I really began to see their English improving. It was lovely to see the class becoming more confident and I soon started developing a bond with many of the learners. Now, by the end of my stay, I feel like I have gained 25 brothers and sisters and I will really miss seeing those kids every day. They have taught me so much and I hope they have learnt something from me too!

    Over the past 3 ½ months I have seen the huge benefit of having a native English speaker, and someone with very little Chichewa, spending time with the learners. It has meant that there have been no shortcuts and if there is a problem or something they do not understand, the children have had to try and explain in English. As a result, their understanding and grasp of English as a language, as well as their confidence when speaking, has come on leaps and bounds. Due to the fact that English, along with Chichewa, is a national language of Malawi, being able to speak and understand it is hugely important for the future success of these children. I therefore hope to encourage others like me to come out here and spend time with the learners as I think the benefits to the children are enormous, and I really hope that the short time I have spent here has made a difference for the kids I have interacted with.

    It has also been a real blessing that I decided to come to Malawi on my own. It has meant that, not only have I been able to form bonds and get to know members of my own class, I have also got to know lots of the younger children and even those from the other schools in the area. The afternoons I have spent sitting on the beach or at the football ground, chatting to the children and giving them a football to play with are now some of my most treasured memories and I don’t think I would have had these experiences had I not been on my own.

    This trip would not have been possible without the help and support of Gordon Opie, Chris Stevens and, of course, Andrew Banda, so to them I extend a huge thank you! I also want to thank all the teachers and learners at Chankhasi School for answering all my questions, supporting me when I had a problem and making me feel so much a part of the community you have created. I will miss everyone at Chankhasi very much but I know I will be back to visit soon!"

    A huge congratulations Thea, you are an inspiration! We are as always everso grateful to our supporters and well-wishers who made Thea's visit a huge success.

  • Away Sports Matches

    Away Sports Matches

    In November, the Chankhasi School football and netball teams played some matches away at Mkazimasika School. With so much support from their fellow learners, some of whom walked for nearly two hours to get to the matches, the scene was set for great sporting action! 

    Our teams played well in all of their matches, displaying fantastic skills at every opportunity. Our football teams displayed some great dribbling runs and our netball teams show cased great teamwork that will no doubt lead to some wins in the near future.  

    Football Team A: final score 0 - 0 (draw)

    Football Team B: final score 0 - 0 (draw)

    Netball Team A: final score 5 - 6 (loss)

    Netball Team B: final score 0 - 0 (draw)

  • Netball Action

    Netball Action

    We had some good sporting action at Chankhasi School this month! Our learners played a netball match against Kayadzi Primary School, a government primary school which is located up the road from Chankhasi. Although our girls lost their netball match, they displayed amazing team spirit and enjoyed their game. The girls also had great support from our teachers who coached them from the sidelines and helped them to warm up with some ball skills.

  • Our First Primary School Leaving Exam Results

    Our First Primary School Leaving Exam Results

    What was only a dream in 2008, came to fruition this month when we received the first primary school leaving (standard 8) exam results for our learners at Chankhasi School. Out of 25 candidates who sat the exams earlier this year, 18 passed and have secured places at secondary schools. Of these 18 candidates, 11 are girls which is ever so encouraging in our community where a significant number of our girls face many challenges. The exam results have put Chankhasi School on a ranking of 5 out of the 11 primary schools in the 'Chididi Education Zone' of Nkhotakota District; an achievement which has inspired us.

    Getting our learners to sit these exams has been the result of a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment from all. At the start of the 2016-2017 academic year, we introduced a standard 8 class at Chankhasi School. This is the final class in primary school here in Malawi. Learners in this class write national examinations and those who pass get selected to go to secondary school. Becoming a full primary school was a tremendous accomplishment for Chankhasi School. Our school director, Andrew completed vast amounts of paper work and travelled to many offices on numerous occasions to fulfil the requirements of the Ministry of Education. With good fortune on our side, we were also joined by Felix, a very experienced standard 8 teacher, who has made it possible to give our learners the skills and tools to sit the primary school leaving exams. Felix's arrival boosted the morale at Chankhasi School because he has a great relationship with our learners. Even before receiving the excellent exam results, the Chankhasi School committee are highly appreciative of his performance and services to the school.

    We have made remarkable progress over the last academic year. As we celebrate our exam result success at Chankhasi School we invite you, our supporters and well-wishers, to join us. We are grateful to our friends, some of whom have been with us since 2008 through the good and the bad times, for their continued funding and support. We wish to thank our extraordinary sponsors for their generous offer to support the salary of a qualified standard 8 teacher; a momentous gesture which enabled Chankhasi to become a full primary school.

    We are looking forward to an exciting future at Chankhasi School!

  • Bishop Mackenzie International School (Lilongwe, Malawi) 2016 Visit

    Bishop Mackenzie International School (Lilongwe, Malawi) 2016 Visit

    September 2016 was a memorable time at Chankhasi School and a great start to the academic year as we were visited by Bishop Mackenzie International School (BMIS) who are based in Lilongwe (Malawi). Their students taught our learners  a lot of interesting things. At the same time the BMIS students gained many insights into what it is like to be a Chankhasi learner. It was a great time for all and we hope that it will be repeated again soon.

  • Kingswood School (Bath, UK) 2016 Visit

    Kingswood School (Bath, UK) 2016 Visit

    In July 2016, 22 students and four teachers from Kingswood School (Bath, UK) came to Chankhasi School during their summer school holidays. Some volunteers worked with the older Chankhasi School learners collecting beach sand, mixing mortar, painting two classrooms and being taught by the builders how to plaster the classroom walls. Other students organised games, football and netballs matches for the younger learners. It was a hard three days of work, but everyone had a good time!

    In collaboration with one of our supporters, Kingswood College also offered their generous offer to support the salary of a qualified standard 8 teacher. This means that Chankhasi School can now become a full primary school in the academic year 2016 - 2017.