Defying traditions, a sustainable school in the South-East of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has caught the attention of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
By challenging mindsets in the village of Kalebuka through its sustainable approach to education, the Malaika school and community centre has taken surrounding communities by surprise since 2011, convincing villagers that their school is a worthwhile venture for girls and planet.
How did they do it?
“Traditionally, women here are expected to tend to gardens & small farms, give birth, and nothing more.”
— UNESCO (@UNESCO) January 9, 2020
Committed to sustainability, the Malaika School is fully powered by solar energy and uses food grown on its farm to serve two healthy meals a day.
Their on-site community centre has a Sustainable Pathways project that teaches out-of-school youth about conservation farming, entrepreneurship and enterprise development.
And by installing new wells in the village, Malaika is having a direct and beneficial impact on over 30,000 people a year by decreasing the number of cholera and diarrhoea cases.
According to Malaika, “An educated girl will increase her future earnings by approximately 10-20 percent for each additional year of schooling and will reinvest most of it back into her family and community. These are key factors in a nation’s socio-economic development, and yet girls still face immense obstacles in obtaining an education in the DRC.”
Hoping to achieve these benefits, the school provides a curriculum structured around maths, science, information technology, health, civic education, art, music, theatre, French and English.
The school also runs recreational and life skills programming for adults and children.
Through role models
One role model that the girls at the school look up to is Malaika’s Country Manager, Sarah Kalumba.
Alongside staff members, Sarah believes it is essential to introduce female role models to students so they are exposed to pathways that can lead to meaningful work.
For example, by taking the girls on trips outside the school, students can witness careers in action and gain real-life insights that they can apply to their learning.
It also reassures students that their career goals are always achievable, even if they await far away from the village.
“We had to beg parents to give us a chance by asking them to think of the future. We explained that without education their daughters would continue to work on the farm for a dollar or two, but that once educated they could become pilots, ministers, office workers, whatever they aspired to be,” says Sarah.
And with plans to develop a handbook about the Malaika model, Sarah believes that other villages can copy its brand of female empowerment through sustainability, curricula and positive role models – just like how Malaika has done.
❌ 132 million girls are out of school
❌ 2 out of 3 adults without basic literacy skills are women
❌ 1% of the poorest girls will complete secondary education
— UNESCO (@UNESCO) January 10, 2020