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Department ofMathematics and Computer Science


Cryptography and Outreach in Malawi

Professor Ed Schaefer taught at Mzuzu University and learned life lessons from the Malawian people

Between 2005 and 2010, Professor Ed Schaefer spent two years in Malawi, currently the poorest country on earth. He went to develop the cryptography component of a Masters Degree program in Information Security at Mzuzu University. 

While there, he also worked with half a dozen community-based and faith-based local HIV/AIDS outreach organizations. This included his service for one year as the Interfaith AIDS Outreach Coordinator for Luwinga, the town of 60,000 people where the university is located.

Three Mathematics and Computer Science majors went with Schaefer to Malawi, each for four months and one went without him. Two of them were enrolled at Mzuzu University for a semester, another held math tutorials at the local secondary school and became a master of the local game bao, and the fourth held math tutorials for university students and maintained the computers at a local community center. 

Schaefer lived through a six-month hunger crises where about one out of seven of the small children were lost, got malaria twice, and learned the local language and dances passably well. The Malawian people taught him that people are more important than time, that patience is a virtue and that singing, dancing, story-telling, laughing and sharing a meal with others are the best things in life.