Our intrepid traveller; a client’s account of Africa – Part 5

Malawi Background: There are 12 million people in the small country; 1/2 million in the capital so there must be a lot of people per square kilometer in the rest of the country.

There are 12 tribes. Chewa is the largest and is in Tanzania and Mozambique as well. It is their language, Chechewa that is the national language but The Queen’s English is taught in school and widely spoken. Others are Yawo, Sena , Lomwe in the Southern and central areas. Northern tribes are Ngonei, Tumvuka, Tonga, Ngonde, Lambiya, and Sukwa. I don’t know what the other 2 are. Some tribes have the wife going to the husband’s home after a dowery to the bride’s parents and the children would stay with the father in case of a divorce. Others have the husband going to live with the wife’s parents and the children would stay with the wife in case of a divorce. There is no dowery. The husband is just for procreation! In Michael’s case, his is a matrilineal tribe, the Lambiya. He is the chief’s oldest son, but his children would NOT inherit the Chiefdom. His sister’s son(s) would. And in times past, he would have had to pay for her kids schooling to be sure they went to the right schools and had the best education while his kids would have been taken care of by an uncle who wouldn’t necessarily do right by them.

Malawi is chiefly an agricultural country with very little industry. For export they grow tobacco and tea. Almost all of those two crops leave the country. The tobacco is cured and sent out in its entirety. It is processed outside the country. Not many of the Malawians smoke; probably cannot afford the cigarettes. Other large agricultural crops are sugar cane and macadamia (Michael says he doesn’t see macadamia nuts in the stores either.) Other industries are sunflower cooking oil, plastics, cement, and tourism, which is growing rapidly. For food the people raise cassava, vegs, sweet potato, bananas, pineapple, mangos and other fruits. Everyone has his own plot of corn and there is lots of clearing of land for this. Even if you live in the city and work there, you will have a plot of land where you grow your own corn; you are considered very, very poor if you have to buy corn. They use it to make flour from which a staple is a type of mashed corn, sort of like our mashed potatoes.

There are 4 good colleges/universities in the country.

Modes of transportation is mainly bicycles and walking. There are bicycle taxis which will take you from the main roads to your village up to 10-15 kilometers for $1.50 to $2. That would be one difficult job!

Most people make $50 to $100 per month. They live hand to mouth. Most houses are mudbrick or fire hardened brick with thatched roofs. A few have windows, most are just about 12×12 and only a door. There is no electricity to most of the villages and water is pumped from the village well. They use wood and charcoal to cook. Probably don’t need fire to keep warm, even in winter.

The country is 85% Christian and 15% Muslim.

Approx. 12% of the country has HIV/Aids, which is pretty good. Some of the African countries are three times that and more.

Education is mandatory for primary 1-8 grades. They have to pass a Standard 8 Exam at the end of 8th to be allowed to go on to Secondary school which they call Secondary 1-4. They must pass an exam after Secondary 2 to go on to Sec. 3. Another after Sec. 3 to go to Sec. 4. After Sec. 4, they have to pass an exam to go to college/university. If they fail, they cannot repeat the class at the same school, unless, of course, it is a private school, which will be happy to relieve you of some more of your money. Therefore, most students, when they don’t pass, drop out of school at that point.

Michael doesn’t own a refrigerator.

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