Queen Elizabeth Academy is the result of a vision held by the community of Mlali, who see their children as the path towards hope and prosperity by way of education. Most parents in Mlali are subsistence farmers, who work extremely hard, but often come up against many environmental and economic challenges that make it hard for them to provide their families with everything that they need, including vital education. To bring hope to the community through affordable education for all, the Queen Elizabeth Academy was founded in 2008 by a local woman and now educates over 150 students, 58 of whom pay no fees and would otherwise be unable to access such an opportunity. The school has aims, not only of transformation for their community through education, but for self-reliance and they live these goals out every day.
My name is Dr. Elizabeth Sekwiha Gwajima, and I am the founder and Director of the Queen Elizabeth Academy in Mlali. I believe that all children deserve a high quality education, and to be able to live out the dreams they have for their lives and their families. My goal is to see our children rise up as knowledgeable, dedicated female and male role models, and to become the future leaders of our country. My role in this process is simply as a catalyst; one who initiates and triggers actions for change.
QEA has become a beacon of hope for Mlali — primarily because it owned by the community itself. QEA’s management team, the teachers, and the school committee are all invaluable to creating our success, with many of them give their time for free because they too share a vision for change in our region. Through our programs and our commitment to each other, we are redefining what life in Mlali can be.
As the old mantra goes, if you teach a child to catch fish, you give them a life-long skill that will be beneficial even to other people surrounding them — rather than simply giving them fish to eat and leaving them needing more support day in and day out. We have a beautiful reminder of this vision at the entrance to the school — a photo of children catching fish. It inspires us all to move forward with our projects and our vision.
The Queen Elizabeth Academy was founded in 2008 after requests from the community for a school. We currently provide quality nursery and primary education to vulnerable and non-vulnerable children in the community of Mlali. Around half of these children — those with more well-off families — pay fees, and while the other half are educated through scholarships paid for by the school. Our teachers are well-trained and our children are well-fed on campus.
We also run a variety of side projects with the goal of creating sustainable income for the school; including community banking, microfinance for parents, a tree nursery, a food forest, and a school farm. In the future, the school will also open a shop, selling goods to the local community and beyond.
Some of our upcoming projects include:
In order to expand the number of fee-paying children able to come to school, we need to expand our housing capacity. This new structure will have three main wings: one for girls, one for boys, and one for a meeting center and dining area. This project is very important to us because we want to keep our kids away from the challenges of our poor community, and to also provide access for children from outside the local community.
This is a natural opportunity for us to reduce costs spent on food for the children. Our landscape offers the chance for us to grow enough food to feed them, but we do not currently have the resources to do so. This project includes staff and equipment needed to turn the land into a resource for the entire community.
We anticipate that with increased production, the school farm can produce enough food, to begin helping turn an income, and to provide for the community. This is an important next step on our path to sustainability.
Our community has given us the feedback that they can see the difference in children who have attended the Academy. Our children are confident, ambitious and well-spoken, and we are so excited by their transformation. We look forward to the benefits they bring to our community, our country, and our world after they have graduated.