Odala's Brick to Success

This week’s story, dives a little deeper into the personal life of one of our students.

I would like to introduce Odala Khiwaya. Odala is a twenty-one year old graduate of Nsondole CDSS. He lives at home with his mother, father and nine siblings, five sisters and four brothers. His favorite subject in school is math.

Odala is the epitome of a student that thrived when he was given the opportunities and chance to do so. Recently, he was able to pass the national Examinations and graduate from high school.

Here’s an account of a typical day in Odala’s life.

Generally Odala rises and falls with the sun, he wakes up early in the morning around 5 a.m., makes a little breakfast of porridge and then heads to the school. He studies for 2 to 3 hours before the beginning of the school day participating in study circles, and engaging with the limited resources that exist at the school. While at school, the only food he has throughout the day is a snack. After school, he continues studying until he gets hungry, then he goes home, grabs the water containers, gets water, and goes home to cook. Like many Malawians in his community, he eats nsima, which is a solid corn porridge with vegetables, usually okra or beans. He typically eats one meal a day. If he has the energy he will go back to school and study till the sun goes down, if he has even more energy, and the school is able to turn the lights on, he will stay until he’s tired. Because of the unreliable electricity, it’s hard to consistently find a place where he has enough light to study. If the lights are off, he will simply go home, do whatever chores there are around the house, and go to bed on his reed mat and with his thin blanket. The next day starts the routine over again.

Odala is one of the students that fits perfectly with the Story Time mission and vision: the idea that communities have the solutions for themselves but don’t have the technical or financial means to do anything about their situation. Odala is the student that recommended that we sponsor room and board fees for students in testing grades. Because of that recommendation, the Advanced Sponsorship Project began. This allowed Odala and 15 other students to stay within a mile of the school. By staying close and having food shared amongst him and his friends, he was able to stay after school and study in group circles with his friends, use the few textbooks that are at the school, and work with teachers who are staying close to the school. Teachers reported that he and his friends were the example of good study habits at the school.

The Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examination determines a student’s future in Malawi. There were 43 seniors at Nsondole that took the MSCE, of those 43, 20 passed and 23 failed. 30 percent of those who passed are Story Time sponsored students. In exams, lower grades are the better scores. The passing grade is 36 or less, and the failing grade is 43. Odala’s total score was a 32.

Odala is the prime example of students that have major potential but are put at a disadvantage and are underperforming in rural Malawi due to a lack of qualified teachers and educational resources. Odala’s scores showed that his weakest scores were in Science and Language subjects. This is due to the lack of science labs or resources, like microscopes, test tubes, measuring materials etc. there are no hands on experiences to help students actually understand the subject. As for Language subjects, there are no qualified teachers and no helpful books or study spaces, like a library, where students can go to study. There are also no media tools like computers that can help expand the student's’ world, with things like access to the internet and online learning tools like Khan Academy.

This is where Story Time comes in with our new initiative, Bricks to Success: Library and Teacher Training Project. Here at Story Time, we are planning to build a library, that has books and a media center, with trained teachers, to help students learn, and understand subjects they couldn’t before. If this story inspires you, donate to this project by clicking the button below.