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July 19, 2022

"Kalibu" in Malawi

Volunteer's Name: Rina Inoue
Batch: 2021-1
Position: Primary school Teacher
Location: St. Teresa's Primary School, Liwonde
Place of birth: Mitaka City, Tokyo

It has been 10 months since I came to Malawi. I have been living in Liwonde for 8 months now. I would like to talk about the "Kalibu" culture, which I think is a wonderful experience in Malawi.

I, currently, am working at St. Teresa's Primary School as one of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) in Primary School Education. I teach Standard 6 learners, equivalent to 6th grade in Japan. I mainly teach mathematics together with Malawian teachers in accordance with the requirements of the school. We have now opened the third term of the 2022 academic year which is the final term the year. From 7:00am in the morning, all school learners from standards 1 to 8 assemble outside the school classrooms. At the end of the assembly, they sing the Malawian national anthem. Classes begin at 7:30 am. There are two break times within the school day. The first break takes 15 minutes and the second takes 20 minutes. There is no lunch break since students knock off soon after lunch hour.

"Kalibu" is a Swahili word which means "come, lets eat together" is a culture whereby people, either at the workplace, school or elsewhere bring food and eat together as a group. This word is commonly used in Malawi to invite others for food. "Kalibu" begins in the morning. Those that report to work without taking breakfast at home, bring food which could be bread or rice packed in a lunch box. In Malawi, compared to Japan, people do not bring food only for their individual consumption. Workmates bring together the food they have brought at the workplace and eat together. The food is not only shared among the people who brought it but it is also offered to those who did not have a chance to bring their own food. "Kalibu" is not only done in the early morning break but it is also done during the second break which usually coincides with lunch time. On a day when staff members have not brought food from home to eat at the workplace, we contribute money to buy food to eat together and play "Kalibu". My workmates always called me for food by saying "Rina, Kalibu" meaning, "Rina come lets eat together "and I am given a lot of Malawian food. Thanks to the teachers, I have had a chance to eat various Malawian vegetables and food. Sometimes, I bring Japanese food from home and call my colleagues, saying, "Kalibu, come and eat Japanese food that I prepared at home". I am sure you now understand how"kalibu" is done among teachers and pupils in Malawian schools.

"Kalibu" is not only done in schools. I live in a small compound of several houses in which the landlord's house is located. Currently, Malawi is still experiencing persistent power outages due to the cyclone that hit the country in January this year. Almost every day, we experience power cuts, usually in the morning or at night, or both in the morning and at night. We sometimes make fire, the Malawian way using charcoal that is burnt in a Mbaula (similar to a turkey ring). Most of the times, when there is power outage at night, my landlord usually asks me, "Rina, have you eaten supper? "Kalibu", calling out to me to join them eating supper. Thanks to that, I have had a chance to eat various Malawi meals with my landlord's family. During this time, the family members teach me how to cook Malawian dishes and I have tasted Malawian snacks such as "Mandasi", "Zitumbuwa", and "Zigumu". I also take Malawi-style fish dishes. I have learned how to cook "nsima"together with my neighbors even though it is really hard for me to make a large amount of nsima. I still I am not able to stir the nsima the way Malawians do. Sometimes, I bring cooked Japanese type of rice (onigiri, chirashizushi, etc.) or cook together with them. It makes me happy that they enjoy the delicious food and that they are interested to know more about Japan.

When I am at the school where I am assigned doing my activities, I see that there is lack of basic teaching and learning materials in the school. For example, in the classroom there is either chalk or a blackboard that is hard to write on (the board is slippery and difficult to erase). Recently, the school received additional number of textbooks to be used in class by learners, but there are still only about 10 textbooks in a class of an average of about 120 learners. Regardless of this tough situation, I see learners gather around one textbook and read from it in a group. I have also seen learners sharing snacks which they brought from home. They also share to the ones who have not brought food from home to the point they say, "I am sorry we do not have enough for all of us". I wonder if this is the same spirit of "Kalibu". I sometimes see the learners share their own snacks to the point that they say, "I don't have enough for myself!" If someone doesn't have a notebook, they tear out a page of their own notebook and quickly give it to the one in need of a notebook. I always think this is a wonderful culture.

This "Kalibu" feeling is part of life for Malawians since they never mind about losing when they share with others. I feel that it is a feeling that can only be felt by those who live within this part of Africa. I hope that this "Kalibu" culture will remain in Malawi for many years to come, and that I will be able to practice "Kalibu" with various things to the people of Malawi. In the spirit of "Kalibu," I will try to do my best!

PhotoPracticing "Kalibu" with teachers

PhotoKuphika (cooking) and "Kalibu" with the house owner

PhotoStudents reading from a textbook together


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