By Suzanne Marmion
If you thought your old school desk was uncomfortable, consider the classroom in Malawi just outside the commercial capital of Blantyre. The “schoolhouse” is simply a tree. Beneath its sheltering branches, children have arranged a circle of rocks. Some stones are barely bigger than a fist. Imagine teetering on one of those through an arithmetic lesson.
Here, in one of the poorest countries in the world, children often learn in crumbling mud-and-grass structures, or as in this case, no structure at all. Yet just behind the scattering of “chair” stones, there stands a new school building built of tidy red bricks. Inside, rows of sanded wooden desks and chairs face an empty blackboard. A heavy padlock on the door keeps the children and their teachers locked out.