Jessy and Issac are proud to be Head Girl and Head Boy at a secondary school in Kasungu, Malawi. They were chosen to be Steve Sinnott Youth Ambassadors and are coming to the UK to talk about education and climate change with their UK peers – accompanied by their Headteacher, Meryvn.
Jessy’s parents are seeing the effects of climate change now. Isaac would like to see us planting trees in the future, and their Headteacher, Meryvn, says, “when you talk about climate change everybody can understand – but now you are calling for an action to say that here we are, what do we do now?”
Jessy’s parents are farmers and are seeing the effects of climate change now.
“My parents depend on farming,” says Jessy. [For food] they grow maize… ground nuts and soya beans. Jessy helps them on the farm.
The weather has changed on the farm since Jessy was little.
“[The weather] has mostly changed in terms of rain patterns [and] in terms of seasons. Last time we expected rains at the end of December but nowadays we expect rains in January.”
This affects the plants her parents grow.
“This has mostly affected the production of crops. [My parents] produce very low crops compared to the rest of the years.”
They also rely on the farm for their own food. Jessy’s favourite is, “rice with chicken, nsima and chips.” Nsima (pronounced ‘seema’) is a sort of hard porridge made from maize.
It’s hard to stay top of the class like Jessy if you can’t get to class – so Oxfam donated a bike. Jessy cycles an hour to school and back every day. “Oxfam brought in a project and they provided bicycles and some other school materials.” she says.
“I want to see mostly all the kids in Malawi educated and the other people that wanted to go to school years ago to send them back to school so that the whole country of Malawi can be educated.”
She wants to be a nurse or a doctor. “In Malawi… some people go to hospital but don’t get treatment just because of lack of doctors. So, I decided I wanted to be a doctor so that maybe I can reduce that problem.”
When she visits the UK she’d like to see, “some informative places, schools, kids from those schools, maybe the palace.”
Isaac has seen the weather where he lives changing.
“The weather here has changed a lot – this month we were expecting hot weather but it’s cold and in June and July we were expecting cold weather but it was very hot – the weather has completely changed.”
He’s read about Mahatma Gandhi and likes that, “It’s a story about a personal struggle, about helping the people fighting for justice. And at the end they get their justice.”
When he’s older he’d like to be a lawyer. “I want to be a professional lawyer so I can help people get justice who don’t have it.”
He likes school and even talks to his friends about school at the end of the day. “School is a good thing because… it helps people think critically and manage how they deal with their everyday problems – school is very important in our day to day life.” He says.
When he visits the UK he’d like to see, “Oxford University and Manchester United Stadium.”
His greatest hope for the future is that we replace the environment we’ve lost. “In the future I think we should plant trees.” He says.
Jessy and Isaac’s Headteacher, Meryvn, has seen the weather in Malawi change since he was a boy.
“The weather has really changed to the negative. It is no longer the same as it used to be before. Previously near the school where I teach, where I’m Head - The river used to have running water but now it dries up – the moment the rain’s gone the water is also dried up completely so that has resulted in several things happening – the crops that people used to grow, they can’t harvest enough – and also, they used to get some fish from the river but now there are none because the river has dried up completely. It’s really so bad.”
This has a very negative effect on the community, he says.
“People end up with their homes destroyed [by floods] [which] means that their children cannot even go to school and also the harvest has not been good enough. Many people here in Malawi depend on farming and once they harvest their crops, if they have surplus, they may sell some and maybe use the rest for their home consumption – so the change in the weather it’s very difficult. Many people are not harvesting enough so they do not have the surplus to sell which means they do not even have enough money in their homes to support their families.”
Right now, climate change is devastating lives. We have a chance to limit the damage from this crisis, but time is running out – we need world leaders to take urgent action now.
Gender Programmes Officer for Oxfam in Malawi, Sarah is “managing a project working with funding from the European Union working in secondary schools trying to increase completion but also working to make schools safe.” She will be coming to the UK with Jessy, Isaac and Meryvn.
The bicycle that Jessy uses to get to school and back was provided by an EU funded Improving Secondary Education in Malawi (ISEM) project that Oxfam in Malawi and Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) are implementing in her area.
Jessy and Isaac’s Send My Friend to School trip to the UK is funded by the Steve Sinnott Foundation.