On November 22nd, Christie Johnson, Executive Director of APU Malawi Education Foundation, presented the following report on the progress of the school and of APU MEF as a Charitable Organization:
AGM Nov 2016 Executive Director’s Report
Atsikana Pa Ulendo, Malawi Education Foundation states that we ‘give girls a choice’, and that we ‘give girls a voice’. Now into its tenth year of operation, having graduated over 450 girls from Form 4 and enrolled, to date, over 800 young women, we can say with certainty that there are already measurable and lasting improvements in the quality of their lives and in the lives of the people around them. APU graduates and students are finding their voices and they are beginning to feel that they have the power to make their own choices about their future.
The standard of academic excellence at APU continues to climb, with our most recent National Exam results an astounding 99% pass rate, compared to the national pass rate of 52%.
Over 70 of our graduates are in universities in Malawi, 80 graduates have become primary school teachers and are in classrooms across the country, 50 are in nursing schools and most of them, regardless of their post secondary education status, are engaged in small business ventures, adding much needed income in support of their younger siblings . Most importantly, all 800 have had their lives irrevocably changed by the education they have received at APU. And they know, first hand, that women can be leaders. That women can affect change. That women can demand, expect and receive respect from men. They know this because they have had it modeled right before their eyes by their own Director, Memory Mdyetseni.
Fundraising and Donor Relations
The funding for APU has historically, and continues to be based largely on donations made by individual Rotarians, Rotary Clubs, and fundraisers held by Interact Clubs and school groups. Over the past few years, APU and Pearson College graduates Maness Samuel and Esther Mwale have both undertaken their own fundraising tours, and have become powerful advocates both for APU, and for girls education in Malawi. In October of this year, Memory and Maness made their mark by giving a Plenary Presentation at the Rotary International Zone Institute in Winnipeg, bringing all 450 delegates to their feet in a standing ovation and winning many new friends and supporters for APU in the Rotary World. The University of Lethbridge, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Lethbridge, provided full scholarship to APU teacher Wyson Ndhlovu to study and earn a Diploma in Education at the University of Lethbridge. Wyson is now back at APU working to share the knowledge that he gained during his studies. This year, APU was also highlighted for the second time, with an article in the Rotary International Magazine. Our website has been completely redesigned an updated by MEF Director Lance Shaver.
Construction and Capital Projects
This year has been another active and successful year for fundraising and construction for APU Malawi Education Foundation.
Our focus this year was on six projects, including the bringing of solar power to teacher housing and class blocks, improving the school’s security system (RC Calgary West and Olds), digging a third well and installing a mono pump that has solved our APU water problems (RC Sidney by The Sea, Langley Central and North Delta), constructing Primary Class Block #2 (Women Helping Women Victoria), providing economic support through employment to our most vulnerable neighbours through our Food For Work Road Construction Project, and the continuation of construction on Phase 2 of the Legacy Building. Finally, $10,000 of funding for much needed science lab equipment has been donated by the Rotary Club of Calgary.
Construction and capital projects for the year ahead include the completion of the Legacy Building, the construction of teacher duplex #5 (private donor), the construction of the primary school class block #3 (Women Helping Women) and the construction of student hostel #6. Thanks to a private funder on Vancouver Island, the completion of the Legacy Building and Teacher Duplex #5 are fully funded. We are hopeful that Women Helping Women will succeed in raising funds for Primary Class Block #3 at their annual fundraising in June, leaving Hostel #6 as our main fundraising focus for the year to come.
An exciting prospect for the coming year is an initiative headed by MEF Director Pat Killoran to apply, on behalf of his Rotary Club, the RC of Lethbridge, for a Global Grant. If successful, this grant could result in $200,000 of funding. Pat’s three week stay at APU is certain to strengthen ties between local Rotary Clubs and APU.
Highlight APU Primary School
The APU Primary School, recently named the Victoria Gardens Academy, has entered its third year of operation, and much like its sister school, APU Secondary School, it has quickly gained attention for offering badly needed high quality primary education to its students. Growing from its opening enrolment of 12 students, to over 100 students currently enrolled, the ripple effects of this fledgling school have already been felt throughout Malawi and even into neighbouring Mozambique.
The original impetus for opening this school was to provide support to APU teachers by giving them a place to educate their children, thus improving their standard of living and helping us to retain our teachers from year to year. It has become apparent however, that supporting APU teachers is only one of the many benefits of opening this school. The students attending Victoria Gardens Academy all come from the neighbouring trading center of Nsalu. Their parents include teachers from local primary and secondary schools, as well as business owners, and other professionals living and working at the trading center, making the community ties with APU stronger than ever.
Although APU continues on its path of success at an incredible speed, we do face challenges that, if not met with flexibility, wisdom, and patience, could still derail this remarkable school.
The challenges of funding scholarships for our students until such time as APU is self-sustaining is a never ending strain requiring ongoing fundraising efforts. We need to improve and streamline donor and sponsor communication so that our donors and sponsors remain involved.
We also know that teachers at APU are central to the success of our students, and as such, we want to continue to source funding for more professional development opportunities, as well as the construction of additional teacher housing.
Finally, with our the experience of our recent audit by the Canada Revenue Agency, we as a Registered Charitable Organization need to continue to strive to know, understand and to meet CRA requirements. The audit was a valuable learning experience for myself as the ED as well as for the rest of our Directors, and we need to use this to become a stronger organization and support for our Malawian partners.
This year, each and every one of our APU MEF Directors has sunk their energy, time and skills into moving APU forward. From booking presentations, to driving and hosting Memory, Maness and Esther, to promoting APU within their Rotary Clubs and personal spheres of influence, to personal sponsorship of APU students, the building the APU website, and providing professional development opportunities for APU teachers, MEF is a strong, active, influential and completely dedicated group of people committed to the mission, vision and principles of the Foundation. It continues to be a privilege to work alongside this team and I want to thank each one of you for your integrity, your courage, the sharing of your talents and most importantly, your gift of time to this extraordinary journey that we are all on.
– Christie Johnson, APU MEF Executive Director