I want to go back to my village!

25 07 2008

The work is almost over! We finished doing insets today and we just have one more day of work to go – our head teachers are all coming to Dedza tomorrow to have a final days evaluation of the work we did and how they can take it forward.  I have more confidence now that the insets are over that things will be carried on and in a wider way as all of the schools in all three zones we were in were at the insets so we reached wider numbers of people and schools.  The one I had the most invovlement in planning was leadership and managed and I also delivered on literacy and numeracy and planned for and delivered on pe and recap of the week today.  The leadership and management had hard hitting issues that we wanted to address and in some ways was quite difficult to do but the others it felt like we gave them lots of strategies right away to try out and the same for the other one of group methodologies and continous assessment.

I am in no way ready to evaluate on this blog or in any other way the impact on either myself or my school or village of my trip here.  My diary will have to help me with that when I get home.  I do know however that if given any chance I would love to be going back to my village now to work further in the school and stay with everyone there.  Another girl and I are already semi-seriously making plans to return independantly next summer and work in our schools again while seeing a bit more of Africa too.  I think that alone shows a bit of the personal impact!  In fact today we went to the cash and carry in Dedza to see if we could buy paint etc there next year instead of having to go to Lilongwe.  You can!

Home on Thursday and looking forward to seeing my photos on the computer (and film footage) and no doubt that will make me cry again!





It’s me this time!

20 07 2008

This will be very short as am in the LINK office in Dedza, we do not have long and the connection is poor. Left the village yesterday to come back to Dedza and prepare for inset training for next week for all teachers in the zones. 

I was absolutely devestated to leave the village, especially of course the children, and just want to go back!  There have been a lot of tears since Thursday afternoon – when I watched standard 6 and 7 boys spend hours making me a mat out of bamboo as a gift and then Friday with leaving ceremony at school and gifts to my family and getting notes from them.  Then I was just a wreck when I left on Saturday.

I have had a completely positive experience, nothing that I thought would be a challenge was in the end, and I got really close to some of the the kids at the school.

Yes, though in terms of what will be sustainable when I leave I am not sure but we could only try our best. By the end of the time many of us were tetchy about the difference in attitudes of the teachers here, they were often late and often not in class leaving children who were desperate to learn with nothing to do.  If you had the training and commitment of scottish teachers and the willingness of Malawi children you could do great things. I have been left feeling very angry at the unfairness of the quality of education our children get and how little they appreciate it and how little quality education the Malawi children (and of course so many others) get.

I did implement new timetables, school rules, composite classes, got a new volunteer teacher, did training in maths, reading, active learning, AIFL, thinking skills, pe games and more and the children loved it but not sure how much will be carried on.  Hopefully the training we will do next week will also reinforce it.

Don’t know if I will be back on again, we are working solidly from now till next Sunday, but will put more on properly when I can.  Sorry, this has been a bit jumbled and probably strange but I just had to get some thoughts down quickly and I am also feeling very numb and upset just now about having left the kids!





Bare Feet and Bubbles

10 07 2008

I spoke to Caroline again yesterday. Things are still going well and she says she’s still enjoying the adventure more than she could have imagined.

When she first phoned me, she had an audience of 5 children. By the end of the call, she had about 50 watching her. She was in a different village and they were all out to see the ‘white’ lady that had come to visit. After the call, Caroline got the infamous bubbles out and caused a riot. Why do kids love bubbles so much? 

I knew that last bit as she also sent me a long text today. She used the secret power of the text message to also tell me that she is tiring of the food, having to eat so much and the fact that it’s quite bland and always the same.

Caroline has been maintaining her running and has had plenty of followers. The teacher’s eldest son is sent out with her each day to run at about 4pm, and they are often joined by others. Then, a group of children that have taken to waiting at the school for her join in, followed by any other kids that see them all out. She says that if she looks sideways she feels like Madonna with her huge entourage, and if she looks behind her, she feels like the Pied Piper of Hamelin! Apparently, when she did a hill session the other day, young kids were happily trotting up and down the hill with her in their bare feet! It puts our own fat, unfit, NIke wearing kids to shame!

Oh yeh, and she has finally done some work  ;-)

Caroline is feeling as though she is starting to make a difference in the school, and sounded very positive about it. I’m no teacher (unless being a Driving Instructor counts. I don’t have any marking to do, but then neither will Caroline next year!) but here’s my interpretation of what she’s been up to…

She has formed some composite classes to help maximise the limited resource of teachers available.

As many of the children arrive late to the school, she has rearranged the timetable, moving maths and language to a later time in the day.

She has set the School Rules (can’t imagine there’s much about discipline in their though!)

She has probably done loads of other really impressive things, but right now my memory escapes me. She did say though that this week she was hoping to start to work more on teaching strategies for maths and language.

Sadly, she also added “I don’t know how much of this they will still do after I’m gone though.” I find this really sad. She and everyone else can only do as much as they can, but without someone permanently in residence at the school, and with limited resources and finances etc. old habits are always likely to die hard. 

I feel like I’ve been on a bit of a soap box with this post today. It’s supposed to be about Caroline’s experience, and it is. After all, part of that experience is relating what she has done, and what life is like in places like Malawi, back to those of us in the UK. Having seen some unfit kids trying to run a mini hill race last weekend, many walking within the first 100 meters, it saddens me that we have so much, but have lost so much more. Don’t get me wrong, there were some very impressive young runner’s there too, but they are only a small percentage of the population. Maybe PSP’s and Wii’s etc should be confiscated for a while so that kids can experience how the other half live. They might even find they have more fun with bubbles!

Anyway, sorry to not have more information on what she is doing within the school, but she always seems keener to talk about the kids… If you know Caroline, you’ll understand this.

Posted by Neal





More Malawi Tales

3 07 2008

Caroline tells me that she is enjoying the whole experience even more than she expected. Here’s some of the latest goings on…

Caroline has finally made use of the facilities… enough said! I passed on Laura’s advice to sing whist she was busy!

 She was calling again from the top of the hill, and again she had been followed. This time by two teachers! Her safety appears to be of great concern to them, but she comes from Glasgow. What’s to fear? You don’t get Neds in Malawi do you? One of her colleagues is in a very remote village which occasionally gets elephants… now that would be worth worrying about!

The first school running club session was held yesterday. It officially has the best school club turn out of all time. She was not expecting over 200 participants! There was supposed to be football and netball clubs at the same time. The official turn out for both clubs totalled zero! So, the club began with a game of Tig. Except that the children didn’t know how to play – I thought that game was universal – so after much translation, the game commenced. There was some pure running completed too. A couple of laps at the end of the session of the football and netball pitches (totalling 400 meters per lap).

Caroline also played a game of netball with the girls in the school. Suddenly it became Malawi’s number one spectator sport, them all supporting her team. The crowds cheered and applauded every time she got the ball!

Caroline has fallen in love with someone else. Thankfully he is only 4. The young boy in her family is apparently very cheeky in a cute way! When his mother told him to stop banging his makeshift drum as it was too loud, he replied with,  “It’s not too loud, I don’t have ears”. I think that translates more accurately to, “but I can’t hear it!”

The same boy was also seen fending off locals with a stick shouting, “no she’s our visitor!”

She has had the bubbles out for the first time with the wee guy and his friend. They loved it and she says she got some great photographs.

The family are trying to fatten her up. She says she is eating loads. Ideally though, it’s all carbs, especially as she is still managing to maintain her running. She has used the afforementioned laps of the pitches to attempt to do a speed session, claiming that the altitude made the fast sections very hard! Again though they insisted that she be accompanied on her run, and an elder son of a village member was made to join her.   

They all think she’s weird. Not because of her running, or because of her Scottish customs. No. They think she’s weird because she’s been married for 4 years but doesn’t have children!

Finally, you can now view a short(ish) video of Caroline in her other role – support to her mad husband on his West Highland Way Run. Click here

posted by Neal





Village Life

1 07 2008

After the relative luxury of the lodge (own room, double bed etc) and visits to markets to buy lengths of material etc. Caroline yesterday made her move to the village. This journey was made in the back of a Land Rover (the condition of the vehicle can only be imagined!) over very bumpy dirt tracks.

Her family speak no English at all, but the teacher from the school is near by and seems to be looking after her. Although she did say on the phone today that she had to be careful what she said as the teacher was in close proximity, despite the fact that she has a long walk up a big hill to gain mobile reception – she may have a stalker! Caroline, as you would expect, has already noted the opportunity to do some hill reps using said hill as part of her training!

Her accommodation now consists of a small mud hut. A communal living area with a rug on the floor, and two bedrooms. One for her and one for the family. The ‘hole in the ground’ is communal and does not have a door. The advice to clap if you hear someone coming does not sound too reassuring and she hadn’t used the facilities yet! If I know my wife, she’ll be refusing to drink to avoid the trauma!

The washing/shower area is also communal, and similarly has no door, although it does have “lovely hot water”. She has the material she bought at the market to give some privacy, and I suggested showering in her bikini (Big Brother stylee) to avoid any embarrassment!

She had just had a lunch of potato and beans when I spoke to her, however she says that the family did not have anything to eat themselves. The headteacher, a male, in her school is new to the role so she has a lot to work with. School finishes at 1pm each day so she is a little concerned as to how she will keep herself busy in the afternoons and on the weekends.

She has already spied the school football pitch as a potential training area, but is concerned that she would not be wearing a skirt when she ran. The wearing of a skirt appears to be the thing to do (I assume that doesn’t include the men though!). The teacher, perhaps seeing a means of escape herself, has promised to wear trousers and accompany Caroline as back-up one day – though I don’t think this involved running. It was also suggested that she show people the photos of her running at home so that they would understand the lycra running kit – it must be so strange for them to see such things.

Caroline was hoping to text me a photo from the hill she was standing on when she called. It hasn’t arrived, but she has never been technically gifted when phones are involved!

posted by Neal 








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