Michael Masudi is Head teacher of Mtunthama All Saints Secondary School
In which part of Malawi were you born? Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing?
I was born on Likoma Island, where the Universities’ mission to Central Africa (UMCA) first established its headquarters in 1861. This was where the Anglican Church was established from. I was born on 19 December 1962 from the family of seven, but there are four of us now and I am the last but one. I haven’t seen my father; I was bought up by my social father. My mum is a peasant farmer. We moved from the island to the mainland in Nkhotakhota in 1969 as we were looking for a place with enough land for catfishing. I’ve done a lot of fishing, especially during my early days in primary school when I was surrounded by water and it is still one of my hobbies. I belonged to a mission school from standard 1-8 and was selected to go to secondary school in 1981. I went to Nkhotakhota Secondary School which was a government school from 1981 – 1985.
What about your early career?
After school I went to teacher training college in Lilongwe for two years from 1985 -1987. I taught in a primary school for three years in Dowa District. In 1991 I was picked by the Ministry of Education to teach at Madisi Secondary School which is a triple streamed boarding school sponsored by the government. In 1995 I went back to college for a diploma and came back to teach at the same school after three years. In 2006 I was admitted in the University of Malawi to study for a BSc in Geography and Earth Sciences. After graduating I came back to teach in 2008 and this time the Anglican Church asked me to be the head of Mtunthama All Saints Secondary School. The Church was looking for the head being a member of the Anglican Church. As a Civil Servant I have had a number of training such as gender issues, procurement, career guidance and counselling, HIV/AIDS school management and budgeting, which has allowed me to be promoted. My ambition now is to study for a masters in administration and leadership.
Can you tell us a bit about your family?
I am married to Dorothy who is also a teacher by profession. She started as a primary school teacher and studied for a diploma and a degree. She is two steps ahead of me – senior to me in professional qualifications! We have two children, Michael and Gloria. We are also raising four orphans – Solomon, Peter, Jeanette and Bella. Gloria, born in 1989, is a nurse working at Mzuzu Central Hospital, and Michael is in standard 3 at Kamuzu Academy.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Usually come weekends I like watching football and being present at meetings at the church. Gardening, I have a big garden of maize this year. Visiting friends and relatives, especially my mum who is now 86 and still in Nkhotakhota. She was here last year for eight months. I like listening to music very much.
What does your normal working day involve?
I work from Monday to Friday, 7.30am-4.30pm. After the normal day secondary we have the open secondary school which I am also head of, we call it night secondary school. During the day I do a lot of admin, teach form 1’s Bible Knowledge, teach the seniors Geography, meet parents on issues to do with their children and visit my authorities at the headquarters and at the divisional office in Kasungu.
Do you have to deal with any misbehaviour?
Generally students are good. The only misconduct I sometimes notice is children who are coming from far can be a bit late sometimes. Some come from 14km away. During the rainy season rivers are flowing and the roads are bad, some cannot even afford umbrellas. The Anglican Diocese is building a girls hostel which may accommodate 80 girls and thereafter they are looking at building a boys one. They would stay here in the campus unless permission is granted to go home. It is well programmed; there is time for meals, time to relax at the pitches for football and netball and time for life skills as well as studying.
Sometimes students fail to pay fees. Upon entering school students can attend classes for two weeks which we call a grace period and then we chase them for fees.
Can you explain a bit about how the schooling system works in Malawi?
Secondary school runs from form 1-form 4. To secure a place in secondary school he or she must pass the primary school leaving certificate, after attending primary school for eight years. Upon passing this one is admitted into secondary school. These are in categories. Those students who have the highest pass rate are admitted into national secondary schools which have boarding facilities. We have also district secondary schools, which are second in the hierarchy. Then we have community secondary schools like this one. Students who are admitted here are those within the catchment area.
As a community secondary school it is the duty of the parents to participate in the developments taking place in the school, e.g. building new classrooms, buying some new materials, maintenance – some of the school fees go to this. The Government pay teachers, electricity, stationery, and provides some monthly funding.
What is the average age of the students?
Some students may repeat standard 8 in primary school. Some are admitted at the age of 11-13, some are about 16/17, so the average age in form 1 is 15 years. In form 4 the average age is 18 although some are 20/21.
In the open secondary school there is no limit in age. Some are 12, some are 50. We offer the same syllabus and some may not be selected in the day secondary school so have no choice but to go to the open secondary school. Those parents who may be working or may not have finished their studies may choose to go back to school as they may want to improve in their career and further their education. It is a mixture. In form 1 we have a mother who is learning together with her own child. Some of the primary school teachers are learning in form 3 or 4. One of our nurses here sat her Malawi Schools Certificate of Examinations last year and attained a very high grade and will be admitted into university.
What would you say is your favourite part of your job?
I’m very happy talking to kids, especially counselling them and also when teaching my kids in the classroom. When counselling, mainly we look at how to study and how they can deal with the conflicts. I also counsel them on how to handle challenges. Sometimes some girls become pregnant and many opt for abortion. We also discuss alcohol and drug abuse.
It also pleases me interacting with my colleagues in the classroom when we have some issues to discuss.
Do you have any sister schools in the UK?
Yes we have two, Frensham Heights School and St Peters High School. These sister schools help us a lot.
For instance, St Peters assist us in transport, construction of the science laboratory, giving of awards to our best students. They are also promoting our pottery club. The students are taught to make pots using the clay soil and these are dried, painted and varnished and sold to raise funds.
Frensham Heights assist us with in the purchasing of stationery. They are intending on providing our school with science equipment and other supplies as well as assisting in the construction of staff houses.
Do you have a favourite place in Malawi?
Yes. This is none other than the lake. I like it very much. I like spending time along the lake because it is part of my life. On the island our home was only seven metres from the lake; sometimes if a big wave came we would get splashed. It is the source of everything, if you feel hot you could go bathe in it, if you feel hungry you can go hook a fish and roast it. I like to go and sit along the lake and remember my friends. We would row out in our dug out canoe and compete to swim back to the canoe. If you are weak and your friend reaches the canoe first they would paddle back to come and get you.
What are the biggest things that would help you to do your job better?
We need desks and chairs for our students; some are sitting right on the floor. Also, staff houses. Out of 17 staff only four are housed. The rest are poorly housed and as a result they do not stay long. There move away after six months or a year where they can be better housed. There is an exodus of teachers.
We don’t have science equipment such as ammeters and beam balances. Come exams, students will be asked to do practicals for the first time. It becomes very awkward in the exam room; students want to do well but are not familiar with the equipment.