January 2021, Construction Bolera Primary School

In May 2020, we wanted to start the construction of the school building, with the expectation of delivering it in September 2020. The plan is that local people will build the school. The coordination would be done by an architect and volunteers from the Netherlands. They would also provide some training, so that in the future the local people would be able to complete such a project themselves. The developments surrounding the spread of the coronavirus have forced us to postpone the construction until April 2021.

Now that the volunteers cannot go to Malawi, we have looked into other possibilities. After much internal consultation (with the local community), we asked Malawi whether they would be able to build the school entirely on their own, and we arrived at a workable solution, with the community opting to take on this project with remote support from the Netherlands.

We as a board applaud the construction in Malawi by the community. It is the essence of development work, local ownership.


How did it go?

Despite the postponement of construction, we have not been sitting still. Since our last big action, The Glass House, at the end of last year, we have done a lot of work, organisationally but also in the area of culture.


The volunteers in the Netherlands have worked hard in the past few months. The building plans have been drawn up, the specifications have been finalised and sufficient volunteers have been found to support the construction work in Malawi, both physically and digitally.


We have put together a cross-country promotion team. This team will promote the school before and during construction. Designs have been made for painting the school, for playing attributes on the sports field and for a cultural programme to promote the new school. This team strengthens local ownership within the community, something that people in Bolera have not been used to until now. The promotional materials such as the billboard and the drawings for the school have now been completed.

Team Africa

Two agents (Prescot Thawe and Hasting Phale), who support the building project locally under the banner of Stichting Vrienden voor Afrika, are busy with all kinds of activities. A container has been installed for the storage of all school materials, which is equipped with electricity, security and a 'roof'. In addition, a water pump has been drilled and the cement blocks for the school building are being manufactured.

May 2021, The first few weeks

The first few weeks, we looked with admiration at how the Malawians rolled up their sleeves and how well the communication went. Once started, unfortunately the first challenge was already around the corner, which has to do with the consequences of COVID-19. The raw material iron has increased by 30% since the beginning of April, which has a direct impact on the budget. Hastings and Prescot did everything they could to keep the price down, where their negotiating power came in handy.


Involvement of population

Whereas in the Netherlands only the builders help, a large number of village wonders came to help prepare the ground for construction. From what we have seen in photos, videos and the weekly team meetings, they are very driven to work and get satisfaction from it.

Summer period; "Keep on digging!"

Involvement of the population
Whereas in the Netherlands only the builders help, a large number of villagers came to help prepare the land for construction. From what we have seen in photos, videos and the fastest team meetings, they are driven to work and get satisfaction from it. One difference from many other projects realised in Malawi is that there is a sense of responsibility. The builders and the population do this under the eye of our Hastings and Prescot. There are no Westerners present who take over part of the construction. This means that there is real ownership on everyone's part.

Start of first period
We are currently working on the first phase, namely the foundation for the school building and the sanitary facilities. What has been realised is the following: a container has been built, a water pump has been installed, cement blocks have been made by hand. In the past few months, the foundation has been dug, poured and all building materials have been ordered.


We are making progress, we are approaching the end of phase 1!

The first phase of the construction of the primary school in Bolera in Mangochi, an area in central Malawi, was completed at the end of October. The Friends of Africa Foundation is the carrier of this beautiful project, in which the local population built the school. In this way, the Malawians' bond with the project was strengthened and there is ownership by everyone. The main objective was the construction of the school, but attached to that was the building up of the local community there. The coordination was done by specialists and volunteers from the Netherlands, this group partly consisting of board members is also shown in the pictures below 

Preparation, start, conclusion

From preparation to start
In the school year 2016-2017, we started the preparations for this project. We wanted to go there in previous years, but due to corona that didn't work out. That is why we opted for a different approach. namely, the directing approach with digital support. We had a good steering committee of three locals in Malawi, with whom we work well. one of them has also become the school's director, Numeri Ludzu. We also had a good steering group in the Netherlands and a construction team that could support the people there. Architect Jan Gerard Koelewijn was the chairman of the building team. He was in daily contact with his team in the Netherlands and with the people in Malawi.


School building

As you can see in the picture, all the work has led to the realisation of the drawing. This building will help about 1500 children structurally to build a future!

Grand opening!

We started construction in early April and the first phase will be open by the end of October 2021. We deliberately name the first phase, because when a building is there and the roof is closed, it can be opened. That is tradition there. We were digitally present at the opening. There was a whole programme from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with sports, games, a guided tour, dance, singing and drama and various speeches. One of our members was physically present there and congratulated and addressed the people on behalf of Stichting Vrienden voor Afrika.
The school is open, but not yet ready to be put into production. There are still some things to be completed, such as:

  • Finishing school rooms, think of painting.
  • Installation and commissioning of solar energy
  • Realisation water pump

A lot of time will be spent on this in the coming months so that it can actually start running as a school in February!

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