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February 1, 2024

Chargé d’Affaires Amy Diaz's Speech at SEED Schools Handover Ceremony in Salima

“Partnership, Overcoming Challenges, and the Secondary Education Expansion for Development (SEED) Project” – Mkanga CDSS, Salima, January 29, 2024

Good morning!  Moni nonse!  Thank you for joining us at the beautiful new Mkanga Community Day Secondary School.  Today’s event marks the completion and handover of 66 new schools like this one in nearly every district of Malawi.

The United States Government, in partnership with the Government of Malawi, constructed these schools under the Secondary Education Expansion for Development, or “SEED” project to boost access to education for young Malawians, especially girls.  In total, we have teamed up to construct up to 89 new rural secondary schools.

Each new school complex includes: four classrooms, one science classroom, and an administrative and storage room.  It also includes a borehole and latrines to promote good hygiene; a girls’ changing room so that female students have clean, private facilities to use; two teacher houses to incentivize educators to go to the rural locations where schools are built; furniture; and an initial supply of textbooks and lab equipment. Our partner UNICEF is providing individual desks and chairs for every student who will attend these schools.

We also built 96 classrooms in 30 overcrowded urban schools.  In all, these efforts are creating more than 27,000 spaces for secondary students in Malawi every year.

As we just heard from the student representative, SEED is more than a construction project.  For the more than 27,000 young people in Malawi every year who would otherwise be unable to enroll in secondary school due to lack of seats, the new construction is an open door to their future.

The real meaning of the SEED project is captured by a story I would like to share with you, the story of Maria Ofesi, from Gombe Village in Thyolo district.  She wants to be a nurse and was self-boarding at a school 20 kilometers from home.  When the money for self-boarding ran out, she had to discontinue her studies.  Then through the SEED project, the Katole CDSS was opened in Maria’s village, and she was able to resume her studies.

Maria’s story, and that of so many other young people in Malawi, is why we have all worked so hard together on this project, to restore these learners’ opportunities to pursue their dreams.

One of Malawi’s greatest resources is its youth.  Through the generosity of the American people, we have invested 90 million dollars—approximately 153 billion kwacha—into school construction so that students, even those with the highest need and in the most underserved areas, can develop skills to support their own goals and contribute to the development of their communities.  By investing in youth, these schools, and the educators who teach in them, we will help Malawi harness its potential to become an inclusively wealthy and self-reliant nation.

None of this could have been achieved without our partnership with the Government of Malawi.  Together, we have reached this moment by making hard, sometimes difficult decisions, and by working together to overcome some dramatic national and global challenges.

Back in 2019, when we first committed funds to this ambitious project, preliminary cost estimates suggested we could build 200 schools.

At that time, none of us could have foreseen that a global pandemic would wreak havoc on global supply chains, or that massive inflation and a forex crisis would make the acquisition of materials and equipment more difficult and expensive.  Unfortunately, these factors contributed to an almost 70 percent rise in school construction costs.

Amidst these challenges, we were able to adapt.  Through the COVID pandemic and multiple cyclones that hit Malawi, we focused on the health and safety of our Malawian construction staff, even if it meant having to slow down some of our operations.

When costs increased, we worked with the Ministry of Education to narrow down the new school construction sites to the areas of greatest need within each district.

With the handover of 66 schools today, we are on track to complete construction of 89 new rural schools by the end of this year, which includes at least two new schools in every district of Malawi except Likoma.

These schools, as well as the 96 new classrooms that we previously handed over, are symbolic of the enduring partnership between the United States and Malawi.  America ndi Malawi ndi pachibale.  These schools are designed to last for many years — to withstand storms and changing weather patterns.  They have been constructed so that they can grow and expand alongside the communities that they serve.  Most importantly, these schools will provide generations of Malawians the opportunity to pursue their dreams and forge a more prosperous future.

I would like to share two reflections.  First, we are grateful to witness the promise that these schools bring.  Here at Mkanga and around the country at other SEED schools, we are seeing headmasters, teachers, school workers, traditional authorities, parents, and most importantly, students who are seizing this opportunity to advance learning and make positive changes in their communities.  This alone makes all of the hard work that we have all invested in SEED worth it.

Second, our shared effort on the SEED project has demonstrated the power of making tough, sometimes difficult decisions, and working together through even the most unpredictable challenges, like a global pandemic.  We could have lost our way; we could have decided to put it on hold; but we didn’t.  Because of our commitment, 27,000 young Malawians every year will have the opportunity to pursue their education and follow their dreams.  These students, and the hundreds of thousands of Malawian youth who will follow in their footsteps after they graduate, are the future of Malawi.  We cannot wait to see the contributions they will make to strengthen Malawi in the years to come.

Beginning with His Excellency President Chakwera and our Ministry of Education partners, I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of the SEED project, including:  our own U.S. Mission to Malawi team, the participating communities, the district officials, the traditional authorities, the parents, and the students.  I also want to acknowledge the excellent work of our implementing partners who have brought the SEED vision to life with their engineering and construction expertise.

As I wrap up, I want to paraphrase former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who when speaking about the United States’ initial quest to travel to the moon said, “We choose to do these things…not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Mr. President, as your government and ours continue to build on our work together, I hope that we will be animated by this same spirit.  I hope that we will continue to choose the hard things, make the difficult decisions necessary to achieve Malawi’s vision of the future, and meet the challenges, known and unknown to us, as we work together to fulfill that vision.

This school is an example of what can be achieved when we live up to these difficult ideals.

America ndi Malawi ndi pachibale.

Zikomo kwambiri!