Interview Margaux Hendrix, Project Malawi, Thomas Van Heurck


Interview Margaux Hendrix

 Project Malawi

Margaux Hendrix is a 24 year old student in Belgium, she is in her last year at the university for becoming a kindergarten teacher. Last year she started a project with two co-students, to go to Malawi and work out a project that would support and improve a little primary school that was located in Rumphi, Malawi. This project was offered by Erasmus in her school in Belgium, called the Karel De Grote Hogeschool.
During her project, that lasted three months, she was involved in a numerous of ways of supporting the school. She helped the school with the financial aspect of bookkeeping, and showed the employees which facilities where essential for a better education for the children. The facilities and supplies she thought where the most important, and were not offered, where a pen and a little book to write in. She also taught some courses to the children, for example some creative courses and English. Margaux tutored the teachers as well, she showed them how they treat their students in Belgium and how they teach courses. Apparently the teachers in Malawi are very strict and don’t accept failure and punish the failed students. That was one of the hardest tasks she had during her stay, because the teachers are very conservative and are used to the way things are. That’s why it was hard, every time she putted time and effort into a tutoring session it didn’t really pay off.
During their three months abroad they went back home for 2 weeks, during those weeks there was a storm in Malawi that destroyed the roof of the school. In those two weeks they were in Belgium they created a fundraising event to raise money to repair the roof. They didn’t want to be in a situation that they were taken advantage of, so the Margaux and her friends decided to pay half the costs to repair the roof. Because Margaux said, that sometimes the school took their services and “fundraising-money” for granted. Cause after the storm they presumed that Margaux and her friends would come up with the money to repair the roof.
The university Margaux goes to, granted her a scholarship of 600 euro to pay her flight and expenses in Malawi. Of course this scholarship was not enough to cover all of her expenses. This was the only money she was granted, there was no support of the Malawian government to help them improving the school. In general her expenses were, 1000 euro for her flight and roughly 800 euro for her 3 month stay.
Margaux actually wanted to go to Gambia, but because of the outbreak of Ebola this became impossible.
I was wondering if the people of Malawi would experience any threat of Al-Shabab, because it is a neighboring country of Tanzania. Apparently the people of Malawi are not really updated on these events. Malawi is a very peaceful country where very little criminality takes place. The village Margaux lived in, there were very little people who had connection with internet or even had a cell-phone. These people who live the village are separated with the rest of the world, and therefore are not acquainted with the problems of the world. Margaux was talking with one of the teachers and she mentioned the word “racism” during her talk and the teacher didn’t understand what Margaux was talking about. So she had to explain what racism was, which is “treating people differently based on their skin-color”. Even after this explanation the teacher had problems fully understanding the situation.
After her three month stay, Margaux isn’t sure to do the same project in Malawi again. She might visit it in the future but she doesn’t think she would do the same project again. After her stay she realized the work and effort she putted into it, didn’t really pay off. The teachers are a bit conservative and don’t have the mentality that teachers should have. Margaux describes that a teacher is, “a person that the student is able to go to anytime during school. A teacher has to guide the student in growing up and has to teach them some life lessons and to have fun in a safe comforting environment.” And in Malawi this wasn’t always the case. When Margaux and her co-students left for two weeks, they bought some supplies like paint, coloring books and pencils for the teachers so they could entertain the children. Because usually the kids just hang on the street , and this will bore them and will get them into trouble. When Margaux came back she saw that the paint and pencils we still in the package. These actions troubled Margaux and made her stay a bit hard.

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