One of the highlights of my trip to Malawi, besides all the official stuff we did, was the opportunity to visit the school where my grandfather, Robert Dale, taught biology from 1965-67. He was sent to Blantyre Secondary School (BSS) as part of an aid program funded by the Canadian government through the External Affairs department. The rest of the family, including my mother at 13 years old, went with him and they all lived on the BSS compound.
As I arrived in Malawi, I wasn’t sure I would get to see the school at all. We had a very full itinerary and the school was just far enough away from where we were staying that squeezing in a visit would be difficult. Even if we got to the gate, I never expected to be allowed inside.
As it happened, the Monday after we arrived was a holiday due to the state funeral being held for the late President Bingu wa Mathurika. This unexpected holiday broke open just enough of a hole in our schedule for me, my wife and our new friend Conrad (from the group) to walk the 1.5 kilometres to BSS.
When we arrived, I admit that I was a little nervous. Here I was halfway around the world standing at the place that has been such a huge part of our family history. There was an older gentleman, presumably a guard, standing by the gate. Using what Chichewa I learned in the 48 hours I had been in the country, I walked up and said “Muli Bwanje” and introduced myself. I began explaining that my grandfather used to teach here but before I could finish, the man swung the gate open and said “Go, walk around!”
I was a little dumbstruck. Three azungu show up unannounced at a state-run boarding school and they just open the gate for us? Welcome to Malawi. Actually, “welcome” doesn’t even begin to cover the openness with which the Malawian people embrace visitors. As I walked through the gate, things got a little surreal – the noise of Blantyre seem to fade and it felt like we’d been transported right back to 1965. Even though I had never been here – I had this sense that nothing had changed. So, without further ado, here are my photos from the thirty minutes or so we spent wandering around Blantyre Secondary School.Pin It