To illustrate how we are achieving this - let's have a look at some of our case studies...
I am the headteacher of Chitsime Primary School in the city of Blantyre, Malawi. We have 5,498 learners, 41 teachers but only 16 classrooms, so the school day takes place in two shifts. My day begins at 5am. I heat the water for my bath as my husband makes our breakfast. I leave home at 6am to walk the 3km to school; when I reach my office at 6.30am I wipe the sweat from my face and the dust from my feet.
I start by checking that everything in the office is in order. Then I check the outside premises, the classrooms, the toilets and the kitchen, making sure that the volunteers have enough water to prepare the porridge – we always have problems with water flow. Children often come to school without having eaten breakfast so they depend on the porridge we provide. The teachers arrive at 7am and assembly starts at 7.15am. Owing to limited space, the morning classes attend assembly in three groups, so I rotate between them. During assembly I encourage learners to work hard to improve their standard of living.
Most of the parents are illiterate, so I advise the students to read books to increase their English vocabulary and share that knowledge with their parents. We were lucky to receive sponsorship from Malawi Leaders of Learning for our school library; children now frequently borrow books and use them to teach members of their extended family to read.
After assembly the learners walk to their classrooms. Even though we have limited exercise books and pencils and most of them have to sit on the floor, the children like school and work hard. This is evident in the happiness on their faces. When classes have settled, and if I don’t have to teach, I go back to my office to do other duties such as attending to parents, signing documents and writing reports.
At 10.30am I attend the late-morning assembly – the infants finish at the same time. It might seem as if the discipline of the school is lost during this time, because one big group of students is going out and another one is coming in. But I am busy controlling the movement of these learners.
The morning shift finishes at 1.15pm and the afternoon shift finishes at 4.45pm. I close the office at 5pm and walk home. I enjoy being a headteacher: I meet parents and children of different characters and I learn from them. But I am always busy, sometimes confused and once in a while I even shed tears because of disappointment. Sometimes I am called to work during the weekend or holidays with no extra payment – this is tiresome. But it is good that I am employed and get a salary at the end of the month.
Most importantly, it feels good to know that my efforts could change lives for the better and free some of the learners from the cycle of poverty that their families are trapped in.
Thank you TES https://www.tes.com/ for permission to publish the article.
The average Scottish classroom is rich with resources, supported by technology and limits class sizes to around 30 children. In Malawi things are markedly different, as Glasgow's Laura MacDonald found out. Rachael Fulton caught up with Laura to find out about her experience teaching in the warm heart of Africa
At the Catholic Institute Primary School in Malawi, 200 children are packed into one classroom, some as young as eight and as old as 19. Resources are scarce and there isn't a Smartboard or computer lab in sight; just pencils and paper if the kids are lucky. The success of the class relies on the teacher's creativity, resourcefulness and enthusiasm.
For Laura MacDonald, a teacher from Holycross Primary in Glasgow, the challenge of teaching in Malawi was an opportunity she'd been looking forward to for years.
"It was something I always wanted to do throughout high school and university," Laura explains. "After I was given my permanent job at Holycross, I was eligible to apply. I'm getting married in the next few years and realised that if I wanted to go to Malawi, now was my time."
Laura went to the Catholic Institute in September 2015 as part of Glasgow City Council's Malawi Leaders of Learning programme along with 11 other Scottish teachers. The programme aims to strengthen links between Glasgow and Malawi, allowing teachers from both countries to support and assist each other in their teaching methods.
Rather than primary classes 1 to 7, Malawi's primary schools operate on the Standard system that runs from 1 to 8. If pupils aren't able to pass their end of year exams for any level, they stay behind. This leads to a broad spectrum of ages and abilities within the classroom, and eight year olds learning alongside older teenagers.
Laura was assigned a Standard 7 class of up to 200 children, a far cry from the 30 little faces she was used to teaching back home in Scotland. Although a daunting prospect at first, Laura soon loved having a captive audience of over 100 students and adapting her teaching style to suit the school's limited resources.
"I was very nervous at first about the classroom sizes,' says Laura. "I was also concerned about the language barrier, but everyone in Malawi speaks fantastic English. The biggest difference is that the classroom is so basic. It challenges you to use different teaching techniques and when I came back to Scotland I promised myself I wouldn't rely on technology so much."
The Scottish teachers involved in the programme stayed together in a lodge throughout their stay in Malawi and would help each other devise creative lesson plans to deal with their larger classes. They relied on the school's library books and newspapers for resources and problem solved together to reach the best outcome for their students.
"I'm the sort of person that loves their home comforts. I love my hair straighteners and that sort of thing;' says Laura. "over there, those things didn't matter. They just didn't seem important. There were power cuts often and we would laugh them off. Small things don't matter over there; you realise there's much bigger things in the world to worry about."
There were also big differences in the curriculum. HIV prevention and sexual health is at the forefront of primary school education in Malawi and all classes are taught from a young age about barriers lo prevent the spread of the disease.
"When you teach sex ed in Scotland, you might get a snigger from the kids" said Laura. "In Malawi it's taken far more seriously and everyone is so aware. The Malawi school day also starts and finishes earlier than in Scotland." Laura would take a minibus to school at 7am and teach classes in the morning, before working with local teachers for a couple of hours and returning to the classroom in the afternoon. Older students stayed until 2pm, with younger kids clocking off earlier at 10am.
"The teachers I worked with found it surprising that I often found 30 kids a lot of faces in a classroom, let alone 200," Laura reveals. "The Malawian kids and teachers were so enthusiastic and just wanted to learn as much from us as possible"
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Poverty impacted the school day in Malawi too. Each child was guaranteed two bowls of porridge a day if they brought their cup into school, but Laura soon noted that some children were going hungry. "I noticed that some of my class weren't going down for their porridge," Laura says. "When I asked the other teachers about it, I found out that if the children didn't own a cup, they couldn't eat.
"I raised some money for the trip before I left, so on the last two days I bought cups for them, they only cost 20p. Despite going without food, the children never moaned about being hungry."
Although only out in Malawi for a month, Laura learned an enormous amount during her time there. She became less dependent on technology and high-end classroom resources, challenging herself to think outside the box and plan lessons using her creativity, rather than relying on screens and internet sources. She believes the experience wasn't only a good learning curve, it has also made her a better teacher in the long run.
"From Malawi, I learned to be grateful for everything we have," says Laura.
Thanks to Lindsay Cochrane from www.teachersresource.co.uk for permission to publish the article.
Latest Blog Title: Ngumbe bound!
MLOL works closely with a number of partners and stakeholders to help us in our goal to improve education in Malawi and Glasgow.
MLOL has joined forces with the pupils of St Conval’s Primary School in Glasgow to take part in a solar light research project.
It is a joint venture between our charity, Keep Scotland Beautiful’s – Scotland’s Light Up Malawi initiative and Solar Aid.
The children were given the task of testing some solar lights that we could potentially in the future fundraise to purchase and distribute in our Malawian partner schools – most of whom do not have any electricity.
They could be used by pupils to enable them to see to complete homework tasks – either in the classroom at night or at home.
But first we tasked Glasgow pupils with putting together a plan to test the lights in various circumstances and as part of a class learning opportunity.
It was an opportunity for the school to research various elements of Malawi before they put together their plan of action.
MLOL supports #GlobalGoals in Malawi
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all