English teacher Henderson spends summer in Malawi

Malawi 4English teacher Maddie Henderson with some of her Malawi students. (Photo courtesy of Maddie Henderson.)


Gazebo Staff Writer

On a typical day at Stratford, a student might pull into the school parking lot in a red BMW.

However, for Jumpha, a young boy in middle school in Malawi, Africa, that is not the case.

Instead of a 15-minute drive, he may have to walk up to four hours to school each day. And when he isn’t at school, he is busy working at his family’s cabbage field.

In Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries where agriculture is predominant, nearly all students walk to school, said Stratford teacher Maddie Henderson.

This past summer, Henderson, who teaches freshmen and sophomore English, traveled across the globe to teach English to children in Malawi, which is sometimes known as the “warm heart of Africa.’’

“I’ve always wanted to go abroad, and I thought if I did something like this, my parents would be OK with it,” she said.

Traveling as a part of the Children of Nations Organization (COTN), Henderson stayed in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, for five weeks. The small compound had a duplex, and the other teachers who traveled with her stayed on one end. A family from Seattle was on the other side. The father worked for COTN as Malawi’s Education Specialist.

In the Malawi classrooms, Henderson said most books have been donated and resemble many workbooks she personally uses at Stratford. Of course, many other items utilized in school distinctly differ from what is used here.

For example, Henderson said students in Malawi find out whether they’ve passed or failed their classes every year through a public announcement in the radio.

“Though it may not seem like it, that is the most efficient way to notify students,” said Henderson. “Most Malawians living in villages don’t have access to TVs and there aren’t online portals you can log onto to check grades.”

After her teaching experience in Malawi, Henderson said she now has a greater appreciation of the many resources Stratford has to offer. She also has greater expectations of her students.

When asked about the dangers associated with Malawi, Henderson says she never felt in direct danger, except when passing “gula wonkula(s)” dressed in mask who often robbed civilians walking by. 

“To make matters worse, they’re equipped with machetes,’’ she said. “Many stories regularly circulate throughout the village about how they’ve hurt people.”

In addition, malaria is also a potential threat. However, in all other aspects, Malawi is a safe place without any political turmoil.

Henderson said although Malawi gave her an appreciation of home, she also misses the “simple” lifestyle in Malawi.

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