Education in the Blantyre area
Blantyre is in the south of Malawi, 16 degrees south of the equator and in a depression within the Shire Highlands, 1000 metres above sea-level. It is the second largest city in Malawi, but the main industrial and commercial centre in the country. (Lilongwe is the capital and largest city.) Its population is 728,000. It is a city of great historical importance and was named after Blantyre in Scotland, the birthplace of Dr David Livingstone.
Chichiri secondary school is one of six government secondary schools in Blantyre. In order to attend Chichiri SS, children need to complete eight years of primary education and pass their Standard 8 exam. At the end of their fourth year at secondary school the students sit their most important examinations. They must achieve passes in six subjects in order to earn the Malawi Certificate of School Education. How well they do in these examinations determines whether they can go on to tertiary education and, for those who do not go on to tertiary education, it greatly influences the type of job they can get. In Chichiri SS approximately 200 out of 300 in Form 4 successfully gain their certificate and 20-30 each year will go on to tertiary education.
Parents of the students at Chichiri have a variety of jobs, ranging from owning businesses and having well-paid office jobs in the city centre to working in small local workshops or running small enterprises.
The students spend a lot of time at school, getting to and from school and studying. The rest of the time is split between helping with domestic duties, attending church, shopping at the local market with some time for recreation which, in the case of boys, is usually football.
Chichiri secondary school has approximately 1000 pupils and 70 teachers. Classes are large, up to 50 per class, but not as large as in the feeder primary schools where classes can have as many as 200 pupils (see photos).
Chichiri secondary school takes its name from the district of Blantyre in which it is located, near to the city centre. It is a commercial area and consequently few of the students live here. Most live in townships towards the edge of the city and the school’s catchment area extends for 10 km in all directions. Some students take a minibus to school but, since it costs £1 per day, poorer students must walk instead.
The catchment area of the school is mixed and represents the range of housing quality found within the city, from high quality expensive properties to small poor quality homes quite often very close to one another. The photos of Chilomoni describe one such housing area within Chichiri’s catchment.
Blantyre extends into the countryside and so, within its boundaries, are many villages where people are farmers, often on a subsistence basis and growing maize. The photos of Ngumbe show one such village within Blantyre.