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Msani Secondary School

Wiseman Chijere Chirwa, BSoc Sc (Hons), MA, PhD. Professor of African Social History, Chancellor College, University of Malawi
Faculty of Social Science, College Campus, Chirunga Road, P.O. Box 280, Zomba, Malawi.

Headmaster, Msani Secondary School
P.O. Box 5, Nkhata Bay, Malawi

+265 999 958 302
+265 888 351 491

Physical location
Msani Village, Chintheche Road, GVH Chilerawana, Nkhata Bay.

Currently 72 students, will increase to 125 by January. We have over 50 admission applications on file

Covering which grades: Forms 1 to 4

About Msani School

Msani Secondary School is located near Nkhata Bay, Malawi. The school was founded in 2008 by Professor Wiseman Chijere Chirwa in consultation and cooperation with local communities. The site used to be a local community primary school established in 1978. In 2006 Professor Chirwa negotiated with the local communities to renovate an old primary school building and erect additional buildings to start a community-based secondary school where students pay part of the cost of their education. The renovations started in November 2008, marking the beginning of a project single-handedly funded by an individual. Classes commenced in October 2010.

Much as the project was started by an individual, the school is run by a five-member board that includes a local chief. It has its own bank accounts and a management system.

Currently the school has one block of 4 class rooms; an office for teachers; and a new building under construction meant to house a science laboratory and a computer lab. A school library building is planned for construction between July and December 2011. The local communities have also requested for boarding facilities, especially for girls. At present the enrolment is 125 while the school capacity is 240. Each of the 4 classes has 60 desks.

The school has four classes: Forms 1 -4 and uses the official national secondary school syllabus. Subjects taught include sciences: Introductory physics and chemistry, O-level mathematics, biology, business studies, commerce, home economics, etc, in addition to humanities and social sciences. Science subjects require laboratories, including a computer lab, where students can do experiments and other forms of practicals. Some knowledge and skills in IT are also crucial for student research.

Professor Wiseman (as I like to call him) is a most incredible man. Not only has he built, staffed and runs the school in Nkhata Bay, he is also a Professor of African Social History at the University of Malawi in Zomba, and continues to help and mentor both myself (with my distribution of LED/Solar lights to students in the Nkhata Bay area) and mentor one of my sponsored students. He also has an incredible record in creating and supporting learning institutions in his country. He completed his masters and PhD at Queen's University, in Kingston, ON with a Commonwealth scholarship. He graduated with honours and with his stay in Canada, he has a great ability and understand to make things work well both from a Canadian as well as a Malawi perspective.

What do you need at your school that you have difficulty getting?

I need to expand the enrolment by putting up an additional block, a girls' hostel (on huge demand), a science lab (mandatory), and books.

The last three are my priorities. I have sorted out the water but need the power/electricity so that my students would be able to read at night. When I last calculated how much the expansion would cost me, it was coming up to just under $18,000.

When I looked at the options of reducing the cost, the following were identified:
(i) donations of computers and books;
(ii) donations of lab equipment and supplies;
(iii) donations of construction materials,
(iv) financing and business partnerships,
(v) externally-generated scholarships to students to increase the revenue base.

These measures would leave me with just the basic infrastructural works to worry about. Just imagine what I would accomplish if two or three people were to come in with varied/various forms of support.

An excerpt from a recent newspaper article, Malawi

Wiseman Chijere Chirwa, 52, was born at Dindano Village, near Nkhata Bay, northern Malawi, in a family of 7. He went to three local primary schools (Lisale, Pundu and Luwazi) before joining Chaminade Boys Secondary School at Karonga further north of Malawi. From there he went to Chancellor College, University of Malawi where he obtained two degrees before winning a Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship to study African Social History at Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

While at Queen's Wiseman took some courses in Latin American history and politics and African politics. He returned to Malawi in 1992 after 5 years to rejoin the University of Malawi where he is now a Professor of African Social Studies.

His motivation to establish Msani Private Secondary School, a co-education facility for both boys and girls is best summarized in his own words as follows:

Dr. Wiseman? How did the school idea come about?

Answer: My father was a disciplinarian (he is still alive). He wanted his children, all the 7 of us, to go to school. He, himself, went to school during the colonial period, then worked in the mines in South Africa. Because he had some education, he knew the value of it and wanted his children to do the same. But at the time of our going to school there weren't many schools. The few that were there were substandard, so we had to make the best out of whatever was available. In fact there was only one primary school in my area, catering for more than 30 villages, covering a radius of about 12 Kms. Imagine, there were 72 of us in standard 1 alone at the time I started school. We couldn't fit a classroom measuring just about 15 feet x 18 feet. So we used to learn under a Mango tree.

My greatest shock when I came back to the village after my 5 year stay in Canada was that the school facilities and the general education conditions were pretty much the same as they were when I went to school in the area more than 20 years in the past. The school structures were still substandard. Some children were still learning under the same Mango trees I learnt under. They were still repeating Standard 8 because they could not get selected to secondary school. Much as new and additional primary schools had been built in the area, there were no secondary schools. Walking distances to the nearest secondary schools were between 8 and 14 Kms. So I decided I should make a contribution. I told myself, "If I start, then a few years from now another person follows, and more in future, this area will transform…I grew up here, went to school here, I know what it means to struggle for education. I went through it. I know it all. And if I have made it, with just a little support, any other kid from the area can do it. So why not give them a change?"

…Being a service to my community, the fees charged at my school are extremely low - currently equivalent to just about US$53 for a three-month term, and a total of US$160 for the academic year. I have 8 teachers (with college/university qualifications) and four support staff, all paid from a combination of the little fees collected at the school and a contribution from my own income.

I have struggled to establish the school for the last three years, financing it from my meager income. Now it is up and running and attracting a lot of attention from the public. There are demands for boarding facilities, especially for girls, science laboratory and equipment, computers, etc. Unfortunately, at the moment I do not have power at the school, books are not adequate, and the lab is not yet functional though the building is almost complete . To get a power line I need to source a stepdown transformer at a cost of close to US$25,000. Solar power would be the most suitable alternative…

An interview with Professor Wiseman regarding expenses for Msani School

How much does a term cost?
Equivalent of US$53
Are there 3 terms in a calendar year?
Yes, which means US$159 a year.
What does a uniform cost?
About US$20 for boys and US$25 for girls, excluding school shoes which cost about US$ US$26 in shops that sale them.
Wishlist for lab equipment, tools and chemicals?
I do not have the list readily available with me. I would have to source it from the Headteacher or the Education Office. They have separate lists for specific science subjects: Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, and Physical Science.
What do you need for the lab and approximate budget?
A lab would cost about US$20,750 ie equipment and tools. The chemicals' and other consumerables' budget is US$1,700.00 per term or US$5,200 per year.
Donated computers?  lets chat about if it is reasonable to ship computers from Canada/USA.  Should they be "Windows ready"?  or can the operating system be installed at the school? 
Whichever. I am not sure about the difference in the cost. My guess is that they would be cheaper sourced from outside because one would take advantage of the periodic sales, clearance sales, negotiated prices for educational purposes, donations from institutions and individuals, etc. Having them windows ready is even better much as they can be locally installed. From my experience in the University and other educational institutions is that equipment donation turns out to be much cheaper than local sourcing.

If we purchased computers in Malawi  - impossible or good idea?
It can be done but I think the cost would be much higher than sourcing them from South Africa or other places. It depends on the numbers involved. If it is just one or two, may be up to 3, it would probably be cheaper sourcing them internally, but 5 or more would be cheaper sourced externally. A complete set of computer/hard drive/cpu costs about US$2,275.

Minimum requirement for a computer/hard drive/cpu.
I believe 10 to 15 terminals would be ideal because the classes are likely to be huge from next year.

What are you budgeting for the girl's hostel? Structure/beds etc.
Since I already have some construction materials, the structure, beds, mattresses for a 50-bed facility would come to about  US$35,000.00.
Food facilities, etc?
Not more than US$9,500 for 50 girls for 14 weeks (full term). Since the students pay for these, the cost is transferred to them.
How many students?
We estimate 50 girls

At what grade levels?
Forms 1 to 4

What would be the costs/fees per term per student for board and room?
Equivalent of US$185 or US$555 per academic year.

Library approximate cost for building?
Since I already have some construction materials, the remaining budget is about US$17,500. Cost of books (required texts plus references for about 240 students, which is the school's full capacity) is US$12,000.

Cost of additional classroom block with 4 rooms? 
Based on US$10,100.

Electricity - cost of transformer and installation?
Are their additional costs to wire the school?  computer rooms, etc or was this done during construction?
I have the required electrical wiring items. What would be needed would be the labour and possibly additional cables for the computers. I would estimate these at US1,500.
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