I think one of the best examples of income inequality in Malawi is found in the city of Zomba. There are two schools that are next to each other. One is called Mponda Primary School. The other is called Sir Harry Johnson Primary school. Even by the name, you can tell which is for the ding dong kids, and the other, well…

Sir Harry educates the privileged. The kids of big bosses in town. The ones that can’t be spanked, oh no… Those go to the naughty corner. They ask their parents, “is everything OK at home?” when their kid refuses to share the toy with their friend that day. They are dropped off at school and picked up, sealed with a “have a good day, sweetie!” as their parent (s) drive off in their car.

Mponda kids walk to school. Their class is too large for the teacher to pay attention to every pupil. Sometimes their uniform is not very tidy. Sometimes they come to school with no shoes. Sometimes it’s hard to pay attention because they didn’t have breakfast in the morning.

Eventually, maybe they meet as adults. Maybe they are in the same class in university. Maybe. But chances are, the Mponda kid went against all odds and finally passed their MSCE exams. They got selected to a university, maybe not the program they wanted but “degree ndi degree basi”.

However, the fees is too high. They can’t make it past this huddle. Maybe they take on a petty job instead, as the Sir Harry kid makes it to a good university and maintains their status in society. Maybe end up working in an NGO which preaches the message that school is important, and that the key to success is education. Our Sir Harry-educated kid believes Malawians are lazy people who rely on handouts, which perpetuates poverty. They drop off their kid (s) at Sir Harry while the house help’s kid (s) walk to Mponda School (did I mention they are literally neighbors?).

Anyway, while at uni, I overheard a group of secondary school girls say to each other, “I’m doing this school thing so my kids can learn at Sir Harry Johnson.” I pray to God they passed their exams and found the fees to pay for tertiary education.

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