Marmite in Malawi!

30 08 2008

I have ended up posting twice today so there is another new post below this one!

Wednesday 16th July

It was bread again for breakfast this morning and I had had all of a sudden got a bit bored of it, especially when it was quite dry!  So as I usually ate breakfast by myself I was able to succomb and finally remember that I had bought marmite for this very purpose.  So I sneaked into my room and dipped my bread into it!

Kids were even later today as it was so cold but it was a nice opportunity to talk to the kids that were there.  Was in tears of laughter, again, with Mme Gwengwe as I decided, against my better judgement, that it would be a good idea to teach the little ones the hokey cokey since I was doing the scottish dancing with older ones.  We went into a classroom and I was teaching it to her with kids staring in at us in disbelief!

Children ticking themselves off on the time sheet as they arrive

Children ticking themselves off on the time sheet as they arrive

I got the children doing some star jumps and running on the spot etc during assembly to keep them warm as although they did clapping and singing they really needed something to warm them up.

St1 boy arriving at school, I loved the jacket!

St1 boy arriving, I loved the jacket

So not only did I do some language/phonics work in St1 and 2 but I also took them outside to learn the hokey cokey.  I am not one for singing in public, I have never done karaoke, won’t even sing a tune for people to work out what it is and definately do not like leading hymn practices in school at home but anything for a bit of fun there!  There was no way the pupils could do the singing as they were too young so it was just my voice ringing out!  Some more work in St3 after that and the children tried really hard with sounding out the words to help learn how to read them, it is just unfortunate that I could not explain to them the meaning!

Women hard at work again while were doing the hokey cokey

Women hard at work again while were doing the hokey cokey

Really enjoyed being in St6 and 7 after break.  Again they were doing english and Mr Kalivute had really wanted me to come in and support/see what he was doing.  He took on board everything I had said yesterday that was relevant to the older ones.  They had a passage in english with one picture and it was about a boy who was an orpan and living with his grandparents.  He worked hard at school etc and became able to open a clinic in his village and help others.  Mr Kalivute asked the children to work out clues from the title and the picture first and then read the story to them which was a good start although I had suggested just reading bits at a time and going over each in turn.  He had also put some words on the board to begin with that they may not understand and went over them. They then read in pairs and were trying to help each other understand it.  I went round hearing them read and they could read it well but again not sure what they were actually understanding although Mr Kalivute did try to do a little explaining in Chichewa.  As I was going round the children asked me how to say some words and that was easy enough but they also asked the meanings of words and that was harder.  They were all struggling with the same ones too so I suggested to Mr Kalivute that he go over these in Chichewa so he put them on the board and went over them.  I explained to him that a lot of children in p.7 in Scotland would not understand these words in English so how could these children understand them! 

The passage was really quite hard to understand and even with all of this extra input when he asked the comprehension questions there were not many that knew the answers.  He did though do as I had also suggested and give clues or say in what paragraph the answer was.  I probably still sound quite negative and although I felt while I was in the class it was all a bit hopeless I think in retrospect that in a very short time I had made a difference and there was a huge amount of progress made by this teacher in a very, very short space of time.  With the words that were on the board we did hangman and spelling the words on each others back which caused great hilarity…..again!  I seemed to spend most of my time with St6 and 7 laughing.  I proved to be very bad at working out which word was being spelled on my back!

The children did not really play at break times

The children did not really play at break times

I also went into St 4 and 5.  Mr Kaunda was away again and it was very frustrating having sorted out the teacher in St2 for there now to basically be one needed again! 

I did a Scottish session with St4, 5, 6 and 7 when the others went home.  I brought out everything that I had brought as gifts so calendars, teatowels and the like plus a lot of posters for the school of Scottish animals, flowers etc, the photos that I had brought and the letters, complete with photos that the p.6 class at home had done.  I explained all the pictures etc first and then put them out on desks and the children just went round looking at everything.  They loved the photos I had brought and the letters the most. 

Very strereotypical teatowels!

Very strereotypical teatowels!

We then had a question and answer session with Mr Kalivute translating.  I got a lot of questions about what food we grew and things like that.  They could not believe I had to go to the supermarket for all of my food and that I did not have a garden as I live in a flat.  They took a bit to understand about how it works living in a flat as they thought I must have to go into other peoples houses to get up to mine.  They also asked some political questions and a little about school in Scotland.  When they asked my age I got them to guess and I had everything from 17 to 17 which I am not going to complain about!

enjoying the photos and letters

looking at posters etc

They then wanted me to ask them questions which was actually quite difficult on the spot but I thought of some and then asked them in the abstract what was something they thought would improve their school.  I expected the kind of answers you would get in Scotland but they said more teachers which I found very moving as they are obviously desperate to learn and quite aware of the whole teacher situation.

Very excited by the letters and photos

very excited by the letters and photos

I then asked them if there were any photos of Scotland they would like to see and I would send them but what Philipo actually asked was if they could keep the photos of me that I had brought which were half and half of me running or in front of Scottish scenery or with friends.  I thought that was really nice and immediately sorted out some for them and we arranged them nicely on the wall in one of the lockable classrooms.

the photos of me that I put up

the photos of me that I put up

We then went out for more dancing and I taught them Strip the Willow, which it took me about 10 years to learn and they managed it in one session!  And that was mostly without anyone translating but an absolute hoot again!

doubled over with laughter at the dancing

doubled over with laughter at the dancing

 

I was obviously pleased when they got it right

I was obviously pleased when they got it right

I went back out to the school grounds after lunch as World Vision were there which proved to be really interesting.  I was able to talk to the staff a lot as they spoke really good english.  Mr Kaunda was there working as was one of the teachers from Fumba Primary whom I knew.  They seemed to be updating sponsorship cards with family members, attendance at school, height, weight and shoe size.  The children were also getting their photos taken for their sponsors all of whom in this area were from South Korea. 

One of the St4 who hung out with me quite a lot with his sponsorship card

One of the St4 who hung out with me quite a lot with his sponsorship card

The sponsorhsip money was used in this area to build a teacher’s house in the village, support irrigation work and develop health.  So it was very sustainable and useful for the long term development of the village.  One of them told me a little bit about the last time there was a famine in Malawi, which was about 5 years ago and the atmosphere in the village must have been very different at that point.  He said there were many people who died daily in the village during the famine and there was often one burial in the same plot for them all.  It was hard to believe and difficult to deal with.  I asked if the people in the village had enough to eat at the moment as that was something I was worried about and he did say no not everyone would especially not at certain points in the year especially as the harvests had been bad last year with the rains coming at the wrong time. 

getting weighed

getting weighed

Mosquito nets were also supposed to be being given out but they did not arrive until very late but which time the vast majority of people had gone.  They came flooding back very quickly when they heard the vehicle coming though.  Nets are given out by the government to all under 5’s so these were for older children as part of the sponsorship programme.

St3 boy, another one who spent quite a bit of time with me, having collected his mosquito net

St3 boy, another one who spent quite a bit of time with me, having collected his mosquito net

I watched all of this all going on all afternoon with Patrick and a couple of others and they were trying so hard with their english.  They then took me off to the school as they were waiting for choir practice and when the choir master (if thats what you call them!) did not turn up they obviously decided to do it themselves and asked me to go in and sit among them while they practiced which was really nice.

a popular game

a popular game

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The teaching of reading

30 08 2008

Tuesday 15th July

The children were very late in coming to school today because it was really quite cold and really who can blame them as they could stay beside the fire in their houses or come to school to be in a cold classroom!

I started off the day doing maths with St1 and 2 to show them how to use washing lines – not that I have a great deal of experience in that myself but it gave them a start at least and they thought it was brilliant.

I had taken out the string needed, clothes pegs and laminated coloured numbers that my class had made. With everything like that that I took I explained how they could make durable enough ones with cardboard and left them whatever I could find of bits that I had, like from the cases of water provided to us.

I then went to do maths with St6 and 7 and specifically wanted to show things that got some thinking going on. First though we did the loop cards which caused great hilarity whenever someone did not get up with their answer when it had been quite an easy question, especially if they had already been laughing at others! Mr Kalivute’s favourite was countdown and he off his own back asked the children closed to the number required to come and explain how they did it, which would have been my next point! It was obvious the pupils had never done anything like that before as they were unsure of how to explain things so I hope he keeps this up.

Did some more maths again with St3,4 and 5 and this was really just reinforcing the things I had already done to make sure the teachers understood.

We were having a CPD session after school and I wanted to but fanta and biscuits for the teachers to have. I was not even allowed to walk the couple of hundred yards to the shop myself and Patrick and Philipo came with – as did half the school as it was break time! They thought it was great fun to come out of school as it was break time so I was like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn all over again. Patrick told me at this point that he wanted to come home to Scotland with me – I am not sure in what context though!

I did Scottish country dancing with St6 and 7 today as well and I laughed until I cried today. I started off with the Canadian Barn Dance as I thought it was quite straightforward but had not counted on so much resistance from the girls about dancing with the boys. I explained the boys usually asked a girl to dance so I explained how they would just go over and ask, quite self-explanatory I thought! So Mr Kalivute strutted across to the girls, and I really mean strutted (how I wish I had had the video camera ready) and made a big thing of asking politely etc. The boys then followed him with the strutting and the girls promptly ran away! I eventually just numbered them to split them up, so we sorted that out for the moment.

first attempts

first attempts

I demonstrated with Mr Kalivute which was fine for the start of the dance until it came time for the hand round the waist bit etc and that just had the boys in stitches and whistling and the girls looking as if they were about to run away again! Kind of went for just holding hands in the end as the girls could not cope! The bizarre thing was that they could not get the hang of continuing the dance on and not just doing it once, so needless to say we never got to the point of changing partners.

note the girls all dancing together

note the girls all dancing together

I went for the dashing white sergeant after that and that was easier and the girls preferred it as they just did it with same sex groups. Funny thing was that I would do a wee tune while doing the bit with partners and they all automatically copied me! They liked the spinning round aspects of it the best.

the boys really went for it

the boys really went for it

Tried rounders again after that and we got on a bit better as Mr Kalivute was a bit more clued up on it but it was still vastly different to our version and there were so many of them wanting to play that they did not really have much to do most of the time.

I led some CPD on phonics, now I knew before I went that this might be something I would do so I do not know what possessed me not to take information as having only taught infants once a few years ago I felt quite clueless. So I had spent the previous few days texting every teacher in Scotland I knew to get info and a couple of them came up real troopers and sent me pages of texts back with info. They had heard of it and kind of knew the concept but relating it to Chichewa and getting them to see how they could use it was hard. It would only really begin to filter up as infants start.

the teachers have now to think of Chichewa words to fit the sounds

the teachers have now to think of Chichewa words to fit the sounds

It was something I felt really strongly about though as I knew the reading was really poor. For a start having volunteer teachers did not help and they were very teaching by just copying what the teacher said, at least in English lessons. Now they were just copying the teacher’s guides so in a way it is not their fault but an example would be a few lines between two people about not coming out to play until you had done your homework. Now I remember my german teacher saying she would not speak in English during a lesson but in reality that never happened as she had to explain things that were out of context or she could not point to etc. This is what these teachers were doing though. They would read the passage or a line, the children would copy, often one at a time with her (how boring for everyone, the lesson went on forever and I was nearly in tears with frustration) and yes they might be able to say it but they did not have the faintest idea what they were saying as it was not explained to them.

I therefore spent a lot of time explaining how even if it was an English lesson it was okay to speak in Chichewa, that they had to understand what they were saying and trying to encourage them to let the children sound the words out and not just copy the teacher all of the time. I demonstrated by showing how I could read Chichewa because of my knowledge of phonetics but I did not have a clue what it was I was actually reading. I really hope that some of that sinks in and they do it as it was so blatantly obvious how hopeless it was for all but the brightest children. It was not just English either.

Some evidence for this was that for the first time link did some baseline assessments to see if they can measure the impact of our work by then doing them again 6 months or a year later. 20 St3 pupils were picked at random and given oral and written Chichewa and maths work over 2 days which proved quite difficult to organise. All of the teachers had to be involved for doing the oral work and so it was after school, and before I did the CPD training. I felt really bad for the kids as they had to come back in the afternoon and there was a lot of waiting around as they waited on everyone turning up and on their turn for the oral reading etc. They did not seem to mind but I did, especially as it was not that warm. I had an enormous stash of monkey nuts in my room as everywhere I visited people gave me them so I got them out and passed them around.The results of the Chichewa reading were awful. There were a few kids who scored really well, there was no middle ground and then the majority of kids scored really badly. I later found out this was quite indicative of all of the global teachers schools. I think, I hope anyway, that this would show the teachers that the way they are teaching reading is not working and that they will start to use some of the strategies we gave them but really this has to come from the top down. The teachers are only doing what they are told really.

St3 again

St3 again

When all of this was over I got the bubbles out and then Patrick turned up to make me a football, which I had asked if he would mind doing for me. I did not know it would take so long – 1 ½ to 2 hours I think! He concentrated on it so hard and was hard work too. We used the plastic that came off my mattress and I had brought plenty of string. Some of the younger children were about and quite a few of the older boys came and sat and played as well and they practiced their English! By this point I was getting left without a translator a lot as Mr Kaunda was off doing stuff for his new job with World Vision and to be honest I think was a bit fed up of having to hang out with me all the time – not surprising really, it was a big commitment. Lameck was about quite a lot though unofficially and a big help to me.

Patrick making my football

Patrick making my football

 

just hanging out

just hanging out

 

Philipo showing off his gymnastics skills

Philipo showing off his gymnastics skills

 

She was only four but carrying her brother on her back

She was only four but carrying her brother on her back

I was really shattered at the end of the day today as it had been so busy and it was definitely early bed. I had nsima for dinner with a green relish which was the leaves of a plant and a cabbage relish.