A trio of brick-laying women work to construct the APU teacher's college in Malawi. Service in the form of construction or otherwise is part of being a member of a school in Malawi.

Saanich teachers building education in Malawi

Women Helping Women fundraise for teachers college in Africa

Dariol Haydock has never been to Malawi, but she dreams of one day going there to teach in the school she’s helping build.

The vice-principal of St. Michaels University School’s middle school is part of Women Helping Women, a group of Greater Victoria teachers fundraising with a purpose: to build a teachers college in rural Malawi. The extra-curricular project is four years and $126,000 into its drive, with most of the funds coming from the annual Garden Party FUNdraiser, the latest of which was held on June 1, and yielded $46,000 in donations.

“There are very few universities (in Malawi); the cost is too much. And there’s a lack of primary school teachers,” Haydock said.

Women Helping Women’s goal is to build a teachers college on the same site in rural Malawi, about an hour from the capital of Lilongwe, where a girls only high school was recently erected. That school, Atsikana Pa Ulendo Secondary School (APU), was a separate initiative spurred by another local group, Girls on the Move. Its opening was met great success, and has now spawned the teachers college.

There are 320 girls enrolled in Grades 9 through 12 at APU, which opened in 2007.

The school started off as entirely scholarship-based, but an increase in “well to do” families in Malawi has since led to paid enrolment at APU and a more sustainable funding model.

“There are paying students now, which is helping to subsidize the scholarships so APU can continue to make them available to girls who can’t afford it,” Haydock said.

Construction for the college is underway, something that happens in stages. Until all the buildings are ready and the school is licensed, APU will make use of the ready college buildings, including a student hostel/dormitory. The goal is for the college to begin offering courses in September, and graduates from APU will simply move to the college level to gain the education to become certified primary teachers.

“Others are helping raise funds for this (college). There’s a women’s group at Harvard, and there’s been help from Rotary clubs locally and across B.C. and Alberta,” Haydock said.

To learn more about APU and the teachers college, visit malawigirlsonthemove.com.

Inset: Dariol Haydock at SMUS.

reporter@saanichnews.com