On a sunny Tuesday morning, a massive empty freight truck parked outside Raiply Factory in Malawi's Mzimba district waits for its next shipment, desks bound for selected schools in remote areas of Nkhatabay's Lake Malawi district. It's a three-hour drive to Nkhatabay port, where the desks will depart on boats for the final leg of their journey.
The Nkhatabay district education manager, Muhabi Chivunga, waiting to receive them is delighted.
About 62 percent of Malawi's school children have no desk or chair, creating challenges for both students and teachers
"Nkhatabay has got some of the hardest terrain, which makes mobility very difficult. But we are blessed because UNICEF is delivering desks to hard-to-reach areas along the lake using boats," Chivunga says. "It's an exciting development because it resolves most of the problems we used to have. Children will be able to sit and learn without worrying about dirtying their clothes, and it will provide dignity for girls as they find it challenging to stand up or sit down in class. With the desks, children will be motivated to stay after class and study more."
Nkhatabay isn't the only district in Malawi where desks are in short supply. About 62 percent of the nation's school children have neither desk nor chair, creating challenges for both students and teachers. To remove those obstacles, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell and UNICEF USA partnered to found the Kids In Need of Desks (K.I.N.D.) Fund in 2010 to bring desks to Malawi schools and help students get much more out of their education.
Giving students a desk where they can write and learn is a crucial first step toward keeping them in school
In Nkhatabay, UNICEF delivered desks donated by K.I.N.D. Fund supporters to the least-equipped primary schools in Chisangwe, Sanje and Toto. As the desks came off the boats so they could be carried off to the schools, community members felt hopeful that improved classroom conditions would encourage more students to stay in school.
Julius Mkandawire, a head teacher at Chisangwe Primary School, is also excited because the new desks may help improve students' posture and make exam time easier.
"Previously, we would borrow desks from secondary schools in the area during the examination period," Mkandawire explains. "It was a long and tough walk for students to borrow and return these desks, especially with our terrain. We have the lake and lots of mountains. Most times, learners were unable to return the desks, and this strained the relationship between them and other schools."
"Now children can sit comfortably, as compared to when they sat on the floor," Mkandawire continues. "They would get tired quickly and become less interested in paying attention in class. This would result in low pass rates, because they were less enthusiastic about school."
Since 2013, UNICEF and the K.I.N.D. Fund have provided 300,000 desks to more than 1,200 schools across Malawi, benefitting more than 1 million learners. K.I.N.D. Fund scholarships have also helped more than 20,826 girls attend secondary school.
To date, the K.I.N.D. Fund has raised more than $30 million to support education in Malawi. Your generous contribution can help even more children get the most out of school, forging a path to a bright future.
Top photo: Every day, millions of children across Africa struggle to learn while sitting on the floor or the ground. Thanks to the K.I.N.D. Fund, students can enjoy learning and get inspired to continue their education. UNICEF Malawi/2021/Corporate Media