By Naomi Kalemba, UNICEF Malawi.
At 12 years old, Innocent Katiya might seem a little young to be an engineer. But the years he’s spent at Nankhali Primary School have given him all the qualifications he needs to help design the school’s new classroom block.
Now in his last year of primary school, Innocent has taken part in workshops where teachers, students and community members gave their input in the design and layout of the new building.
“The designs were great, but we advised the engineers to add more toilet blocks because the four that they had originally planned were not going to be enough,” says Innocent.
“We also asked them to change the location of one of the classrooms. We asked them to bring it closer to the existing classroom block,” he adds.
His help will be much appreciated. Because the school lacks buildings, classes are routinely held outside under trees.
During summer, it’s very hot and the winds blowing in from Lake Malawi bring in a lot of dust. During the wet season, children often miss classes because everything stops once it starts to rain.But as part of the classroom building project, Nankhali will receive new classrooms, a library, toilets, teacher offices and teacher housing. The project has been made possible with the support of UNICEF and the famous German footballer, Mats Hummels.
Construction of the classrooms is already underway and the excited children have been watching the builders who are hard at work.
Innocent says he is happy to see the designs begin to take shape on the ground. The foundation work is almost done and soon the walls and roof will be constructed.
Innocent is not sure if he will use any of the new classrooms since he is almost finished primary school. But he is excited that his younger sister, Ellen, who goes to the school also and learns under a tree, will enjoy learning in one of the new classrooms.
In the meantime, Innocent’s experience helping to design the new classrooms will no doubt help him as he chases his dream of becoming a banker. “My neighbour works at the bank. He has his own car. I want to be just like him.”