While some Cyclone Freddy survivors in most camps need food, clothes and other items, their counterparts in Mangochi, say their immediate need is education for their children.
“Our immediate need is education for our children,” says Zione Chasauka from Mtalimanja Village in the district, who is at St. Augustine III Primary School camp.
“So, we want government, development partners and well-wishers to make efforts to move us out of these camps to go back to our homes so that we can easily manage our school-going children,” she adds.
Chasauka, 38, who is from Senior Chief Mponda in the district, explains that life at the camp is hard and they cannot manage to take care of their school-going children.
“There are no bathrooms here. We use toilets to bathe, but they are few to accommodate many of us here. The living conditions cannot sustain our dignified living,” she laments.
Chasauka, who has four school-going children, says she found herself at the camp following the collapse of her house by the natural calamity.
“It was a nightmare, water was all over my house and after sometime, we saw the house collapsing. We couldn’t rescue any property because doing so would have been risking our lives.
“This compelled us to come here and seek refuge. But since schools are opening soon, all that we want is to get back to our homes to restart our lives and prepare our children’s education,” she says.
Her counterpart, Ester Makiyi, who is from the same area echoes the same, saying their children missed end-of-term two examinations, hence, the need to return home soon to prepare their children for the next school session.
“Our priority number one is education. We don’t want anything else apart from helping us with resources that can see us back to our homes from where our children can easily go to school,” she stresses.
The unprecedented natural disaster ravaged people’s homes, property, crops and infrastructures such as roads, bridges and school blocks.
The education sector remains one of the sectors that was dealt a heavy blow by the Cyclone Freddy.
Apart from disturbing classes towards the end of the second term, the cyclone demolished many school structures.
According to the district’s Department of Disaster and Management Affairs (Dodma) acting desk officer Lasten Kalambo, over 18 209 households were affected by the cyclone with nine deaths, 117 injuries and one person still missing.
It forced the survivors to seek refuge in schools, churches, mosques and other facilities before camps were established to house them.
More than 20 schools in Mangochi are still providing shelter to cyclone survivors yet schools are set to re-open for third-term on April 17 2023.
The situation is a serious cause for worry among the survivors in the camps, more so considering that some of the children will sit for the Malawi National Examination Board examinations.
This is, perhaps, why Chasauka and Makiyi are opting for any material support that can see them going back to their homes as opposed to continue staying in the camps for the sake of receiving food or clothes.
However, Ministry of Education spokesperson Mphatso Nkuonera says the ministry is working with other stakeholders to ensure that people who are camping in schools are relocated to other places to ensure no disturbance when schools re-open.
“Together with Dodma and other partners we have secured tents which we want to erect in districts which were hit by the cyclone,” he says.
But Nkuonera laments that the devastation was huge, appealing to well-wishers to continue coming forward with assistance, especially in the education sector.
“As you are aware that we are coming from a history of other natural disasters such as Tropical Cyclone Ana, this cyclone Freddy and Gombe, we need more support from development partners and well-wishers,” he says.
Dodma spokesperson Chipiliro Khamula says the department is supporting district councils with resources to ensure that people who were affected by Cyclone Freddy recover from their losses, including relocating to safer places while they are mulling over plans of getting back to their feet.
University of Malawi School of Education Department senior lecturer Richard Nyirongo calls for urgent and coordinated actions by government and development partners to see to it that survivors who are camping in schools and other places are assisted to go back to their homes to easily manage their school-going children.
“By now, in terms of camps, I thought they could have been constructed or erected to accommodate those people who are staying in schools, especially now that schools are opening next week,” he observes.
Nyirongo argues that there has been enough time since the disaster occurred, hence, wonders why people are still staying in schools.
To this end, Nyirongo asks the Ministry of Education to take a proper audit of what was been lost in the schools and how best to recover such losses.
“The disaster damaged a lot of properties, including education facilities. What is needed now is to take a proper audit and, perhaps, avoid taking any stance that might further continue bruising education,” he advises. During the donation of relief items at Mponda Evacuation Centre recently by RiseUp Malawi, Mangochi district civil society organisations vice-chairperson Dickens Mahwayo also emphasised the need for government, development partners and well-wishers to help the survivors with building materials so that they can go back to their homes to rebuild their lives.