All too often, particularly in developing countries, it is young girls who have to give up on their dreams, but I am tremendously proud to be able to say that Memory and the 320 girls currently attending Atsikana Pa Ulendo (Girls On The Move) Secondary School, are not amongst them. In fact their dreams are becoming reality in the most profound of ways. Under the powerful and inspiring leadership provided by Memory Mdyetseni, the director of APU, the transformative power of education is being fully realized. Our students are being empowered to learn and to lead, to give of themselves to their communities and to share their knowledge with others. “
– Christie Johnson, 2010
Academics at APU
The school opened in 2008 with 80 students in Form 1 (Junior Year), all sponsored by Canadian donors. By September 6th, 2010, APU became a full secondary school with 80 girls in each of the four forms. APU is registered with the Malawi Ministry of Education and follows the Malawian curriculum. We employ 12 full time teachers and 5 part time teachers and have class sizes of 40 students. Our Form 1 and Form 2 students take 11 courses, including English, Math, Chichewa, Agriculture, Biology, Geography, Social Studies, Life Skills, Bible Knowledge, Physical Science and History. Our Form 3 and Form 4 students take 6 compulsory courses, including Math, English, Chichewa, Social and Development Studies, Biology and Geography, and one of either History, Agriculture or Additional Maths.
Across Malawi, APU has become one of the most highly regarded schools the diverse experience we offer our students. This reputation attracts families who are able to pay private tuition fees for their daughters’ education. Tuition paid by these private students helps APU offset the cost of additional sponsorships.
APU’s reputation attracts an overwhelming number of privately paying families to our administration offices during registration time. Despite initially charging the equivalent of $1,000 CAD for private tuition, APU took on an additional 60 private students for the 2013-2014 academic year to fill the incredible demand. This brought the total number of students to 420, with 120 on scholarship.
Lacking accommodations, water, and electricity, APU’s capacity has become stagnant. Our administration is attempting looking to reduce the number of students back to 360 students, aided in part by raising private tuition fees (not scholarship) to the equivalent of $1,500 CAD, to appropriately reflect demand. Even after making this change in the 2015/2016 academic year, enrolment only eased back to 408 students. The dormitories are certainly overcrowded, but for a chance at an education, the girls have been making the best of things in hopes that funding for an additional dorm (“Student Hostel”) will be found soon.
Clubs and Sports at APU
Our APU students are also involved in a variety of clubs, including the Outdoors Club (pcctured below) Science and Technology, Debate, Chess, YCS, and SCOM (Students Christian Organization of Malawi) and AIDS Toto (Toto is Chichewa for NO). We have a competitive netball team as well as a very active choir. This year, our students have gone on field trips to the Kamuzu College Of Nursing, the Lilongwe Water Board, the Chitedze Research Station, and the SouthernBottlers Industry.
Sports Day at APU
Every year, students and staff at APU participate in a school-wide sports day. This day is filled with both silly and serious competitions and brings the entire school together in an atmosphere of fun. This day is one of many special events that makes APU unique in Malawi. It demonstrates the family-like community that is fostered between teachers and students.
Service Learning At APU
Our APU students spend three hours each Wednesday afternoon engaged in service activities both at the APU construction site as well as out in the community. They volunteer at the local medical clinic, take time to mentor primary school students, and clean up garbage at the local market place. In addition, they spend one afternoon a week working at the APU school site carrying water, bricks, and sand, spend time watering saplings in the APU tree nursery and tend to the plants in the extensive APU garden.
APU is breaking new ground in teaching its students that you don’t need to be wealthy in order to give back and make a difference in your community. All that is needed is a strong and healthy body and a will to help others. At first, our girls did not understand the importance of giving their services for free, stating that they were poor and had nothing to give. The ethic of volunteerism is not widespread in Malawi due to the extreme poverty faced by families, particularly in the rural areas. Their teachers have convinced them that indeed they have hands, feet, brains and energy, in fact they had everything to give! Our girls are proud that they can offer their help to those around them and are beginning to understand the importance of volunteering their time. It gives them a sense of power, that they have the ability to do something of value for others. It is the start of their leadership training as they start to understand their ability to make change in their communities.
Measurable Achievement at APU
At the end of the school year, following the Junior Certificate Examinations (J.C.E.), and this year the Malawian Schools Certificate of Education (M.S.C.E.), our students and staff join in celebrating the school year with a special dinner and dance attended by all. Candles are lit to represent the importance of sharing knowledge with their families and communities in order to make their villages, their communities and their country a brighter place for all. Academic achievement at APU is an expectation of all of our students.
APU gives our students every possible chance to succeed at a very high level. We provide our students with safety and security, female role models, well qualified and hard-working teachers, good nutrition and clean drinking water, comfortable warm beds with mosquito nets, strong partnerships between teachers and parents, time to study, trips out of the village to see the rest of Malawi and broaden their perspectives, and the support that comes from knowing that they have a sponsor in Canada that ensures that their tuition is paid.
With all of this support, our teachers have good reason to be optimistic about their students’ performance on government exams and future chances to attend university and further training.These high expectations are already resulting in unbelievable achievement in our students. Our first class of Form 2 girls achieved a 100% pass rate on their Junior Certificate Exams in 2009 and this was followed in 2010 with a 98% pass rate. This type of achievement is truly unheard of for girls living in poverty and orphanhood in rural Malawi.
Junior Certificate Examinations
Our first class of Form 2 girls achieved a 100% pass rate on their Junior Certificate Exams in 2009 and this was followed in 2010 with a 98% pass rate. Our girls have continued achieving near perfect J.C.E results in every year since then. This type of achievement is truly unheard of for girls living in poverty and orphanhood in rural Malawi.
Malawi School Certificate Examinations
In 2011, our first Graduation Class wrote their Malawi School Certificate Examinations (MCSE), equivalent to a Canadian high school diploma, achieving a 93% pass rate. The following graduating classes of 2012 and 2013 achieved 91 and 97% pass rates, respectively. When you realize that even though half these students were on scholarship, with backgrounds of extreme poverty and huge gaps in their educational background, they achieved a 97% pass rate when Malawi’s national average only touched 52%. The 2015/2016 graduating class achieved a perfect 100% pass rate on their MSCE, while the national average stagnated at 52%.