By Troy Smith – In-the-Field Traveler
Everyone has his or her own view of determination. For me it’s always been Rudy, the scrappy kid who ditches the steel plant to follow his dream of Notre Dame football stardom. I mean, come on. At the end, when his whole family is there and everyone is chanting, that’s just classic. If you don’t tear up I’m pretty sure you don’t have a heart. Sean Astin, a tip of the hat to you. For some people perseverance and determination is Mandela, King, or that guy who cut off his own arm to escape from underneath that boulder (come on, you all definitely remember). However, it is pretty rare that one encounters that kind of person firsthand; a person who is literally putting everything they have, heart and soul, into one, singular goal. When I arrived in Mzuzu, Malawi I admit I hadn’t done my research. I knew I was visiting a primary school called the Beehive School, and that they had encountered some trouble as of late. Aside from that, I was pretty much in the dark.
What I found when I arrived was a man who had been worked to the core, had been run ragged, and yet still was keeping his chin up. Before I even heard his story, I knew Niall Dorey had faced some tough times. He moved a bit slow, looked a bit tired, and yet seemed completely anxious to get to school the next morning. The Beehive School was founded following Niall’s experience teaching in a local Malawian private school in the early 2000s. Faced with overcrowded classrooms, unmotivated teachers, and overall lack of proper infrastructure, Niall decided to act. “The school I was teaching in was supposed to be the best in the Northern Region, but I thought these kids were missing out on something. I thought I could make a school that was so much better.” Starting with eight students, and using a room of his own home, Niall Dorey officially started the Beehive School. The school quickly grew to a massive 210 students, all decked out in their construction orange dress shirts and black ties. Classrooms and a playground were constructed, the operation expanded, and the Doreys moved into a new home. The school was even complete with a library and a computer lab. There were definitely some busy bees at Beehive, but for the Ministry of Education, the honey left a bitter taste. Lacking proper licensing, and possessing “temporary structures” (which more often than not, were better than the facilities at local schools), Beehive was ordered to close in November 2009; this the very day they were approved for a parcel of land on which to build the permanent structures. Unsure of what to do, feeling completely hopeless, Niall tried to negotiate with the Ministry of Education, but was met only with negativity. Pressured by others, Beehive went to court. While the court battle was ultimately unsuccessful, it did allow them a stay of closure.
Two sessions later, however, they were closed yet again. Crushed and defeated, it seemed Beehive would simply be a dream lost by the wayside. However, the dream still lives on. With the help of some dedicated parents, Niall was able to collect funds and hastily finish construction on one classroom block at the new site. It is simple, no frills, but it is indeed a permanent structure They must split the school sessions–grades 1-4 in the morning, 5-6 in the afternoon. The walls are all blank, the blackboard has been painted onto the wall, and there’s a bit of condensation coming through the windows; but it’s a school, and a pretty good one at that. If one were to have any doubt about Niall’s passion and love for these children, they need only see him at work in the classroom. Niall has had to adopt a first grade class as his own due to staff shortages, but still he puts everything he has into molding those little, at times a bit hyperactive, minds. However, the work isn’t done. Construction on the second block is still underway, and the Dorey clan is working hard to ensure that everything about Beehive is up to code (there is quite a lot to the Malawian School Codes, just trust me, it’s pretty unbelievable). Niall’s wife, Constance, has been a rock during the entire ordeal, single-handedly lifting bags upon bags of concrete for construction, at times acting as the brawn to Niall’s more soft-spoken nature. The two, with their three beautiful children, earn couple-of-the-year in my eyes. While the stress may be overwhelming, and the staff members may be dwindling, I have no doubt in my mind that Niall Dorey will succeed and accomplish his ultimate goal—a proper education for Malawian children, and a beautiful school on a red clay hill. “I’m going to build this school, no matter what. I want this school, the parents want this school, the children of Mzuzu need this school. (Niall Dorey) Troy Smith, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is currently an In-the-Field traveler visiting GlobalGiving projects throughout Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania. Follow his trip at http://troygivesglobal.tumblr.com/.