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Malawi's Secondary School Success Story: Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Academic Excellence

Horton CDSS Celebrates it’s First High-School Leavers

A Blaze of green, Malawi Secondary School Leavers from Horton CDSS
Horton - Malawi Secondary School Leavers

The first cohort of students are graduating! Where have four years gone?

Well, safe to say the secondary school graduated in style!

Here is a little insight into the day with Helen and Jelena, long-time volunteers and friends. Plus a gallery of pictures for you to enjoy and an appreciation speech from the headteacher, Henry Chinkunda.


…and they certainly were, in their bright green t-shirts, as the first students to complete four years at the new Horton Secondary School (average age 14-18).

When we were last at Fisherman’s Rest, in May 2019, the school building was nearly finished, a joint project between Noble Foods and Fisherman’s Rest. The school was named in memory of Steve Horton, Marketing Director at Noble Foods, who started the ‘Malawi Saving Lives Programme’ and who sadly died in 2017.

Students started in autumn 2019 and, despite the setback of Covid, they reached the end of Form 4 in June. Those who completed all four years had already passed the tests at the end of Form 2. Val and Kevin, volunteers from Fisherman’s Rest, helped set up the school and provided support and some teaching to students during much of the four years. Staff from Fisherman’s Rest have also provided a range of support.

So, what about the learners? Our first encounter with a student was walking back up the hill from the Tilitonse Community Centre. A rather trendily dressed young man engaged us in conversation and it transpired he was in Form 2 at Horton. Instead of overtaking us, he walked with us, asking all sorts of questions and taking it upon himself to teach us some Chichewa and writing all the words down for us. Not quite what we would expect from a 16-year-old in the UK!

We started working with students in Form 1 the following week, checking on more advanced dictionary skills and then using texts about Children Changing the World, aspects of climate change and giving opinions. What was so impressive and refreshing was their motivation to learn and curiosity about ideas they had not considered before.

The school has a well-stocked library and a computer room, but, unfortunately, not enough textbooks, which means that few students are able to study much at home.

What was interesting is that students do not go immediately on to university. They apply once they have their results and go the following September. A gap is often proposed for the UK, to ensure that actual results are taken into account before places are offered. But there are no real opportunities for the usual ‘gap year’ activities in Malawi.

And why the green t-shirts? The school had given all the leaving students a green t-shirt to mark the significance of their farewell as the first Form 4 to leave Horton.

We’ve probably all been to a leaving or awards event, but this was very different from any we had been to in the UK.

The trees on the site had been wrapped in white paper and a covered area with seats set up for Form 4 and visitors. A raised area of the site was used as the stage for important guests. Children and adults from the village stood around and watched the event and we realised how key the school and this event were in raising aspirations in the community.

Two DJs played loud disco-type music during the morning, to the obvious enjoyment of students and guests.

There were speeches from the headteacher, the chair of the governors and the Chief. They thanked Noble Foods and Fisherman’s Rest, praised the learners, recognised how hard they had worked and wished them well in their exams. They also thanked parents as well as reminding students of the importance of not getting married too soon. The head boy thanked the teachers and headteacher. Between each speech there was entertainment by the students, songs and sketches, often praising and thanking the teachers and headteacher with genuine warmth. At one point the students all did a dance with their form teacher. There were then prizes for some students and testimonial certificates for all. As students came to collect their certificate, many were joined by their proud mother or father. This was really moving as we thought what a shame it is that English students would be embarrassed by this.

At the end the students all walked to Fisherman’s Rest park area for a lunch of chicken, rice and vegetables. There were more speeches, including one from Wiktor, who also took time to highlight the importance of good teachers, encouraging the students to train to be teachers. After that, they went back to school for more partying, but we left them to that!

It was a real privilege to have been able to attend this first ever event for Horton and it was a wonderful way to celebrate this momentous occasion for the school.

We all hope that many aspects of life will improve for all the people of Malawi, but let’s also hope that young people never lose their enthusiasm for learning and life.

Helen & Jelena (volunteers & very much FR family) June 2023

The Day in Pictures - Secondary School Celebrations in Malawi.

Headteacher Henry Chinkunda shares a moment of appreciation and thanks.

Zikomo Kwambiri

We will be in touch with results as soon as we have them!

The FR team.

P.S. Helen mentioned a shortage of textbooks, if you’d like to buy the school more textbooks - here is the link!

Read more about our projects here.

Malawi Secondary School, Horton CDSS Drone Footage & Update Pictures


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