Charles’ story: “After the tablets came, I fell in love with school”

In Malawi 34% of children do not finish primary school, and for those that are in school it can often be a challenging time. Some classes have more than 100 pupils, with just one teacher and few materials to support their learning.

One little boy who wants the holidays to end so that he can go back to school, is seven-year-old Charles. Just over a year ago, it was a very different story. Charles used to fight in school and wouldoften fail to turn up to class. 

His mother, Kelita, described  him as unruly and disinterested in learning. She even had to persuade theheadteacher to give him a chance.The  youngest  boy  of  eleven  kids,  Kelita  says  Charles  is  her  last hope  as  none  of  the  older  siblings finished school. 

The family live ina remote village in Malawi with no electricity, mats to sleep on at night and an hour’s walk from school. Kelita said: “He was not well behaved and he would fight. Only five minutes into school he was hitting with hands and sticks.When he was skipping school he would play football or go to the dam and swim.”

Everything changed when solar powered tablets were introduced at the school as part of a project run by Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), funded by Comic Relief and UK aid, who joined forces to give children  in  Malawi  the  chance  to  learn  skills  to build  a  brighter  future. The  tablets are installed  with specially  designed apps  to  teach maths  and  Chichewa  (their  local  language) in  fun,  colourful  and interactive  ways. 

Teachers are  also  given  special  training  so  they  are  better  able  to  understand  the needs of their students and improve their learning experience. Charles went from failing his exams and having to repeat his entire first year to being top of his class when he started participating in the project and using a tablet. 

He said: “I was very annoying and used to fight my friend. I just used to go and play but after the tablets came I fell in love with school. I don’t miss any school now, I come every day. What makes me happy at school are the tablets.” With  a  maximum  of  30  children  in a session,  children  can  work  through  lessons  at  their  own  pace. These sessions are helping children like seven-year-old Charles, who is excited for the holidays to end so that he can go back to school.

Kelita said: “When I heard that my son was top of his class my heart was so glad because I saw that this boy has stopped fighting now he’s concentrating on school.”