Life in Malawi: What you need to know about life in Malawi

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Life in Malawi is both exciting and painful.

Rural life in Malawi is harder for some people.

No piped water and no electricity 

Since I was born I have lived here in Malawi.

I have been here since the last 28 years. Malawi is my home.  For this period I have learnt a lot about life in Malawi.

Wha I have learnt is that life in Malawi is exciting for some people but is also terrible for others. I have over the years traveled to all four cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba. I have also traveled to rural districts like Rumpi, Salima, Mulanje, Tyolo, Liwonde, and Mzimba just to mention a few.

Rural life in Malawi

When I was boy life in Malawi was very interesting. Together with friends we spent most of our time playing football and swimming at the nearby Rukulu River. Apart from playing games we spent the other amount in school. The kind of football we were playing then we made them using soft plastic papers. I still remember packets of sugar were the best for making balls.  

Living in rural areas in Malawi, we also had to tender cattle. Cattle grazing were very common as more people had cattle kraal in the village. At first it was funny but later on it begun to irritate me. Feeding cattle requires that we move to the bush from morning and spend my entire day in the bush until evening. I was a challenging time. Worst of all is that we had to spend the entire day in the bush feeding animals while we are hungry.

Dependency Syndrome

Over the years I have observed that life in Malawi is a hassle for most middle class and poor people. Many people here in Malawi live on hand to mouth as they do not earn more to save.

Dependence syndrome is very high. As such most families in the cities are large having about three dependents per one person. Life in Malawi encourages extended families unlike in the west where we here nuclear families are popular.

Malawi city life is challenging too. What makes it more boring is the intermittent power supply and limited piped water. Most tap are dry for three days within a week. The issue of black outs is now becoming the order of the day. People who can afford have either solar panels erected on house tops or they the use electric generators.  As for the rest of the people they have to wait for electricity to come back.

Is education free in Malawi?

I also think that life in Malawi is better lived when one has good education. Academic qualifications have more weight that skills and talent.

Good part of it is that primary education is free in all government school.  Free education has over the years increased the number of students’ enrollment in primary schools.

However, while the number of students enrolled in schools has drastically improved many experts agree that quality has lowered down.

In secondary schools students pay school tuition fees in both government and private schools. Tuition fees in government schools are cheaper than in private schools.

However, due to high poverty levels some students fail to finish secondary school because they lack school fees.  In tertiary institution, there is a big gap between students from poor families and those from well to do families.

A World Bank report indicates that students from rich families have more chances of completing tertiary education than as compared to learners from poor families.

In short one may conclude that there is no equality in education in Malawi between the poor and the rich. Life in Malawi for uneducated people is hard. It is very difficult for uneducated people to find good jobs.

What is the main language spoken in Malawi?

Now let me point out another unique thing about life in Malawi. It is about the importance of language. Language plays a greater part in the way people interact and do business in Malawi. Our country is blessed with over twenty languages.

Chichewa is the most popular language and is also the official language. People are attracted to those who speak same language. Language acts as a deposit into the trust bank account. Malawians love to buy from the people they trust.

Food in Malawi is part of our culture. Life in Malawi is well-defined by what food you eat and what drinks to enjoy. Like I said above there are many languages in Malawi; of which they correspond to different ethnic groups.

And each ethnic group is known by its kind of food. As an example the Ngoni from Ntcheu, Mchinji, Mzimba and Balaka they love eating roasted meat and drinking local masese beer.

While the staple food in Malawi is maize some the Tongas of Nkhotakota, Nkhataby enjoy nsima made from cassava flour.

Therefore, to enjoy life in Malawi with a certain ethic group one has to assimilate to the kind of food they enjoy. Communal eating is popular in rural areas and in community activities like during weddings, and funeral services.

What is the time in Malawi?

Time is the most abused thing in Malawi. I can tell you that life in Malawi is slow, like somebody said people in Malawi don’t run. In total agreement, I would add to say that people in Malawi are in most cases late for appointments and events.

Moving around churches, schools, offices meetings, and rallies you will find keeping time remains a challenge. Except in rare cases as where there is distribution of relief items many Malawians we are slow on time.

Dances form part and parcel of life in Malawi. I remember when I was young we were traveling to distant villages to watch traditional dances during the night. This is how much many others love traditional dances and songs.

Individuals perform such dances  during special celebrations like on Christmas as a well as in during state functions.

There are several dances performed by different ethnic groups. Vimbuza dance is popular among Tumbuka people in the north, Gulewamkulu is for the Chewa’s big dance and Malipenga dance is for the Tonga people.  

Share your experience about life in Malawi with us by leaving a comment below.

Interested to know more about life in Malawi, contact me through:  chimwemwe@malawischolar.com



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