Yankho Elementary School is located in ‘Area 23’, on the edge of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi in Africa.
The school was founded and created in 2008 by Austin Assan, a disillusioned Malawian primary school teacher. Austin had worked in a state primary school but found the huge class sizes, lack of classrooms (many classes with 140 pupils regularly took place outside) and the very high drop out rate really depressing. He resolved to set up his own school and make a difference, “for the children of Malawi.”
In 2008 he moved with his wife and four children to a small house in the Area 23 township. The house had an enclosed ‘garden’ within a fenced compound. It was here in his garden that Austin set to work building Yankho Elementary School (in Chechiwa, ‘Yankho’ means ‘answer’!
Since 2008, Austin has built and rebuilt 6 classrooms around a small central play area which is also used for assemblies. Initially classrooms were small and had open windows and doors but over time he has used the small school fees he charges to pay for classroom extensions.
I have known Austin since 2009 when, through the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms programme, I set up a link between his school and Trellech Primary School where I was the headteacher. Opportunities for children to learn collaboratively were limited due to language and technical constraints though there have been many opportunities for learning about each others school, country, routines and lifestyles. One very beneficial aspect of the school partnership was fundraising. The biggest achievements were raising funds to pay for windows and doors on every classroom as well as providing a laptop for administration and learning, printed & electronic learning resources and a large selection of play equipment.
The great thing about the fundraising link is that, using the internet, everyone who contributed was able to see very clearly and directly how their money was benefiting real children without being taken up by admin costs.
I have visited Yankho three times and have worked closely with Austin on school improvement and curriculum development. We’ve spent many hours talking about improving learning provision as well as practicalities like building, water supply, drainage & waste management.
In 2009, Austin visited the UK. This was a trip of many firsts; the first time he’d left Malawi, the first flight on a plane & the first meeting with a national leader (First Minister Rhodri Morgan).
When I left Trellech Primary School in 2012 I wanted to ensure that Austin & Yankho would still be supported and, because the school wasn’t able to commit to this support, I was pleased to be able to establish a new link with The Dell Primary School. Austin returned to Wales in November of 2014 and spent the week in and out of lessons and working with staff and pupils at The Dell Primary School.
This website gives a little insight and background into Yankho Elementary School and the work we have undertaken through our partnership.