Tag Archives: The Barracks School

The Barracks School library

Depending on the library

23-year-old Simon in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, has to live away from home in order to attend school and his school fees are paid by family friends. Even though he is in school, life and learning are far from straightforward but Simon is determined to change his life for the better. He told us how he’s using books and education to make that happen.




My name is Simon and I am 23. I am Form Four Head Boy at Barracks Open School.

Not everyone in Malawi gets to go to secondary school – or even primary. The distances some students come from make it difficult to proceed in our education. Other people cannot afford an education.

Not everyone in Malawi gets to go to secondary school.

My father and my mother are no longer married because my father left my mother. We [Simon and his siblings] stayed with my mother in the rural village but for school I stay with my mother’s family. My mother cannot pay my school fees, so I depend on some friends of the family who are working in the city.

Sometimes I have to come to school without eating anything. I don’t have the support of a mother and father to help me in my life, so sometimes I go home and there is nothing to eat at night.

But my mother loves me so much! She thinks about me even though her life is very hard. Sometimes she sends me some money so I can buy food. But my father never thinks about us.

That is why I am older than the other pupils.

Even in school, a lack of resources can make learning hard.


Barracks classroom
The classrooms at The Barracks School are often overcrowded


There are some books in our classes but because of overcrowding in classes, it is difficult to have enough books. So pupils go the library to study in the books. But because of overcrowding, those books are scattered – so some students will not get the books and find out what they have been asked to study. This is our issue.

Also in addition to that, in our school library, there is a shortage of some books. Some other students maybe can go buy the books, but for us it is not affordable.


Reading in the school library
Pupils read and study in the school library


The books that I like most to read are the sciences. I don’t have my own books to read. I am just depending on the library. When I go home, I go directly to the library to read those books. Sometimes you don’t find the books because some pupils have taken it, but that’s why we need more books!

I want to make more of my future. The books will help – especially for the mathematics. I like to solve the mathematics, that is why I will be an accountant.  If I get a good job after the school, I will be able to help my mother.


Even though life is tough for Simon, in comparison to many young people in Malawi, he is incredibly fortunate as he has the opportunity to attend secondary school. For many, the cost of secondary school fees are too high for their families to afford. Only 28% of young people attend secondary school and only 22% complete it. In the poorest of areas, as little as 11% attend.[1]

The books you help to send go to schools like Simon’s so pupils can access a broader range of books to support their educations. The books also fill the shelves of public and community libraries in Malawi so that students can access them outside of school and those not able to attend can continue to learn or develop new skills.

[1] https://data.unicef.org/topic/education/secondary-education/