Malawi is a country wedged between Mozambique and Zambia in southeastern Africa. The cerulean water of Lake Malawi sits in the east of the country, and in the south and west mountains ascend into the sky from valleys across the lush green landscape.
Yet in a country with such rich natural beauty, its people are some of the poorest in the world. The World Bank states half live below the poverty line, and a quarter is unable to satisfy food needs. The average Malawian subsists on $377 per year, the second-lowest gross domestic product per capita in the world, according to World Population Review.
Data from UNICEF in 2016 said roughly three-fourths of Malawian children don’t pursue education past the age of 14, and attendance is even worse in rural regions where children often choose to work in agriculture or fishing instead. ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College is working on extending access to education in the marginalized African country — and other countries in similar situations — partnering with Malawian universities to provide scholarships and share knowledge learned through similar endeavors around the world.
Associate professor Samuel DiGangi of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College was training teachers in Gaza in 2018 when funding for the project was abruptly cut by Congress after the passing of the Taylor Force Act, ending all funding to Palestinian Authority assistance projects.
He turned his attention to Malawi soon after.
“It was interesting that as (the project in Gaza) was deactivated, it was within a month that we received word … that our proposal for the Malawi project was elected and funded,” DiGangi said. “It was very good timing.”
Which worked well for DiGangi, who said the day-long flights across the globe have given him the environment in which he thrives and is most productive.
“Because I'm trapped in a plane for 13 hours at a time, it's really hard to be distracted and to find something else that I could be working on,” DiGangi said. It allows him to focus on the projects at hand.