Film director’s big ambition to build secondary school for girls in Africa
PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 September 2020
Education is something she has never taken for granted and after being inspired from a volunteering trip a film director is setting up a charity to build a girls’ secondary school in Africa.
Teele Dunkley, 35, from Cawston Road in Reepham, who grew up in Estonia and has lived in Norfolk for around 15 years, came up with the idea for the Sade Lumi Education charity at the start of lockdown.
It is named after her seven-year-old daughter, Lumi, and the daughter of co-founder Clanford Chirwa, 16-year-old Sade, who lives in Malawi, where Mrs Dunkley wants the free secondary school to be built by September next year.
It will be in a rural part of the Neno district, in the south of the country, and will allow teenage girls and young women who cannot easily access education due to lack of transport, early marriage and pregnancy.
Mrs Dunkley, who has a lot of relatives in the teaching profession, added: “I never grew up in Estonia with limitations on my education. I know how much education gave me and I have never taken it for granted. I was always aware how many people did not have that in their lives. I have dreamt of being involved in education. It is a big thing in my heart. It was a dream to volunteer somewhere.”
As well as traditional subjects including maths and English, the school will teach practical skills including carpentry, agriculture, art as well as human rights and looking after their health.
“It is about giving them a chance,” she added. “There is nothing wrong with being a mother or working on the land but school gives these girls freedoms and skills that could be potentially useful.”
Keen photographer Mrs Dunkley, who completed a film studies degree at City College Norwich in her mid 20s, first volunteered in Africa for a charity aged 19 when she went out for six months.
During this time she helped people with HIV prevention advice, ran art workshops and planted tomato seeds to feed communities.
She said: “I know what it means for people to go to school and how few resources there are for people to get to school.”
The charity founder said there were limited numbers of secondary schools in the country compared to primary schools and had witnessed the “joy and determination” of children who would walk for miles to have an education.
Mrs Dunkley added: “It was hard when I first went to Malawi. It was a very poor area. I got more back from it than the people I helped. I’m still in contact with people I met. Those types of experiences stay with you.”
It was during that visit where she met Mr Chirwa, a former Save the Children worker, who is a co-founder of Sade Lumi Education along with Dalitso Nkhwazi.
“Clanford [Chirwa] cannot wait to do it. Having someone local there will help because with lockdown you cannot travel easily. He is very passionate about girls’ education,” she said.
Mrs Dunkley, who grew up wanting to help others, was inspired to develop Sade Lumi Education, which she hopes will be granted charity status in the autumn, at the start of lockdown after seeing the “amazing” online resources her daughter could access.
MORE: Performing arts students help raise hundreds of pounds for African school
She felt it was unfair that many young women could not easily access education during lockdown in Malawi after all the schools were shut.
The film director added that ordinarily many girls from 14 onwards cannot easily access free secondary school education in Malawi.
The mother-of-one said: “Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. We know the need is there right now. We feel confident we can make it happen. Sometimes dreaming bigger and being ambitious makes more people want to get involved.
“Lockdown made me feel like I was in my own bubble. The charity idea made me feel like I had a purpose. It makes me feel closer to the world.
“There is nothing that will stop us setting it up. It has been amazing how many people want to get involved. Everyone has been very supportive.”
The school will be built on seven acres of land, costing £1,500, and it will include on-site accommodation for staff and students, cater for women who have children, and be self-sufficient in terms of how it runs.
Mrs Dunkley thinks the project will cost £100,000.
To get involved visit www.sadelumieducation.org.
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