To the end…..

12 10 2009

Friday 10th July

Went into St 2 first this morning to show them pictures that primary 2 had drawn for them and to get them to draw pictures in return.  Did a bit of maths with ST 3 and I was impressed as I started off with the rythmn clapping and they knew exactly what to do so their teacher, Mme Champeni a volunteer teacher who was there last year, had obviously been doing it with them.  I felt it was easier to do things with her this year and she was enthusiastic and very clear about how to do triangle sums and use the 0-20 number cards.  I explained wait time again this year  and she was visibly counting to 10 before asking the kids for an answer.  The HT came in and I made him stay and watch her for a bit and said how well she was doing which she was so pleased about.


I then did the same in St 1 and also got the washing line out that I had made while there.  Kids from St 1 had helped me colour in the numbers so they were then excited to see what it was for.  It was a volunteer teacher in St 1 that morning and the volunteer teacher from St2 came in as well so they both seemed to get the hang of it well and enjoyed it.  The female teacher from St2 was at one point telling the male St2 teacher to make sure he alternately picked boys and girls which shows how much most of them are really trying to be fair between boys and girls.


I had taken one of the stories I brought from last year and designed good questions to do with the older pupils as they read it.  I did this with ST 6 and 7 with them doing reading in groups as we went along too.  It was hard though with everything being translated both ways to get the really deep questioning and discussion going.

We then did the paired reading with the older pupils reading to the younger ones outside.  I explained about how to hold a book properly and about reading to other pupils.  They did not understand too well though about how to go and get the other pupils and so we ended up with some very small groups and some rather larger ones.  Again they went on for ages as they were keen to be out reading, doing something different and looking at the pictures. Although I could not understand them I could see some really good interactions going on including the older pupils encouraging the others to read along with them and asking questions of the pupils.  One of the teachers commented on the good expression the pupils were putting into it and the way they were encouraging the younger ones to join in.




The older ones then did letters in return to the pupils at Castlefield.  I had letters from primary 5, 6 and 7 here with indiviudal photos on them and the pupils in Malawi loved seeing them and I took individual photos of them too.

I was tired of seeing St 5 with little or no teaching since their teacher was off so I went into them next and just played maths games with them like splat and buzz.  We then used the number cards and chain sums which they got better at.  Their knowledge of their tables is not great and I highlighted to their teachers that they would need to know those better to progress with dividing etc.

In the afternoon I was taken off to see a newborn baby.  She was born just as I arrived in the village the week before.  The mum had been in labour for ages and I’m told she was born just as I arrived so they thought she was waiting for me.  So they named her after me!  No-one will be able to say it so I presume she will get called Caro, the same as they call me. Obviously I did not know about this so did not have anything with me for a baby so ended up giving some Scottish tourist souvenir.  I will probably send an outfit over.  I was given her to hold as soon as I arrived and she promptly peed on me which I kept quiet about!


I just played with the kids the rest of the day.  I was sent off to bathe at about 4.30pm and washed my hair for the first time in 10 days!  It’s just too hard to wash long hair with a bowl of water!  The kids were amazed when I came out with long wet hair though as I had kept it back in two french plaits all week.

The stars were amazing tonight, the best I have ever seen and I was just standing outside staring at them.  The family thought it was hilarious and of course I could not explain to them that you just do not get stars like that in the city.  I had to ask the HT to explain the next day, that is just something they take for granted and never look at.

Saturday 11th July

I got quite a bit of work done on jolly phonics and jolly grammar before the HT and Lameck came round to go to Mayani.  We had some rather interesting conversations on the way about buying and renting houses, benefits, homeless people, asylum seekers and about bars and prostitution.  This came about as we were talking about students and having money and I said I worked in bars and restaurants.  I shouldn’t have!  Women only go to bars in Malawi if they are prostitutes and it was hard to explain about bars here.  (And about prostitutes for that matter and where they work etc).  It is not illegal in Malawi as it is seen as just being another way to earn money.

We were going to the education advisor’s house to meet Clare and talk to him about progress and developments since last year.  We were there for nearly three hours!

He had been  very positive last year and was the same this year, although he did not shirk from sharing the issues they are facing with us.  On a positive note he could see the advantages that there had been from having GT’s there last year as he had seen a lot of good practice going on in the schools he has visited in the last year like maths activities, libraries being set up, time management improving and link schools being established.

Five zones in the district have been giving auxilliary teachers for this year and if it proves successful hopefully that will continue and extend into next session and with further schools.   This has been possible with funding from DFID and has included training for them in schemes of work, resources, assessment and methodologies.  Unfortunately Clare and I found out that our auxilliary teachers would be going for this training next week!

Open and distance learning is beginning for teacher training in Malawi and some of the auxilliary teachers from this session have applied. They would go to college for 6 weeks and then have their school visits with handbooks to complete and the same exams as other student teachers have.

There had been a performance review done of the schools in the zone and the PEA had done a lot of work making up sheets of how each school had done which he was happy for us to see.  My school had done pretty well compared to others in the zone  (I have written about this earlier) but still with things to work on and a lot of the head teachers were demoralised by their reports which was unfortunate. I guess it gives them clear direction on what to work on!

We had lunch at the PEA’s house and it was one of those times I am really glad I am vegetarian!  I asked what the meat was out of curiousity (and Clare really wished I hadn’t) and it was goat’s offal.  I got to stick to egg!

We did some wandering around afterwards and after our discussions earlier I actually got to go into a bar!  I had noticed at the TDC there was a sign for photocopying and it was at the bar so in we went and it was called Obamaland!  It really was not that exciting – there was no-one there, barely any furniture and barely any drinks.  The owner not only had a photocopier though but also a computer with windows media player playing the tunes and big speakers!  Not what I would have expected in a place as small as Mayani!  Something else though that goes on in Mayani at the weekends though is that there is a building with a big tv and speakers and they charge folk to go in and watch the ‘cinema’, mostly kids and there are loads more that listen from outside.




I got asked by Clare’s HT today how many children I had and there was another shocked response when I said none and then the obligatory questions over why not!

Even though it was almost dark by the time we got back there were still children out waiting for me and I ended up playing for quite a while.  For the first time tonight I ended up tickling them and they just thought this was brilliant and I played chases with them doing that.  It is so obviously such a delight and difference for them to have an adult playing with them.

Sunday 12th July

Nice relaxed morning with some of the older pupils from last year whose english is really coming along and I was able to show them photos etc.  Went for a 5 mile run with Lameck which was great and then managed to get off to the school to do a bit of work.  The HT had come to see me and complained of sore legs from walking so fast with me yesterday!

Lameck then took me out for nearly 4 hours visiting people in the village.  Everywhere we went more and more pupils gathered and I would basically be introduced to the adults, shake hands and say hello and then play with the kids while Lameck showed the adults my photos and I would ask or answer questions while playing!  It was hard to do anything else!


The last house on the way back was upsetting for me.  I am never any good when people are complimenting me or praising me and at this house the dad spoke really good english and just kept on saying how much the children love me and how good it was that I came back all the time while children were all around me.  I did have to turn around at this point and wipe the tears away as it was just too much!

The kids accompanied me all the way back to the house and I so felt I had to play with them for a few mins – in bare feet as I only had sandals with me and in the dark!

Monday 13th July

For having so many teachers in the school this session how can we only have had 5 today!  Three auxilliaries and a mentor were away to Dedza for training, one was still off sick and one was away to mark more mock exams!  This made it pretty disheartening to either try and do things with teachers and kids for them to see or to do after school training.  The even crazier thing is though that the HT did not even know until Sat that the auxilliaries and the mentor were going to Dedza this week so that makes it even harder to plan! 

I went into St5 and 6 first (having suggested that they be put together) and by myself since there were not enough teachers I got the atlases out that I had bought both in Scotland and in Malawi (and the Malawi ones especially were brilliant for them although still in English obviously) and let them look through them in groups.  They really enjoyed this and were so chuffed to get them.



Did some maths with them as well using number fans and number cards and then took them out for scottish country dancing.  This was funny again this year and similar in that it was the boys who listened and joined in the most and the girls were more difficult.  Doing it by myself was hard work!

I  went to see St1 and 2 afterwards and made a fool of myself again teaching them head, shoulders, knees and toes and doing the hokey cokey again!  Did some maths with St2 afterwards and got out the number cards to 20.  I had enough for them to do it in 3’s and I asked them first of all to lay out the numbers in order, thinking this was the quick bit before doing sums.  It took most of the time to get them in order!  I would like to do this with a p.2 class here and see what the comparison is.

After school today I showed the teachers various resources I had brought like the jolly phonics, jolly grammar, books, posters, 100 square cards, number fans, number cards, inflatable globes and the atlases.  Testing at all stages was supposed to happen this week and luckily, and I was really pleased they felt they could do this, they decided to postpone it until I had gone so we could do more with the pupils.

Played with kids all afternoon!

Tuesday 14th July

I spent the day today doing Jolly Grammar and maths in all of the different classes.  I spent a lot of this visit feeling that I was not doing very much/achieving much.  Maybe it felt different last year when we had to write up what we were doing all of the time/justify it.  Not that I was not following the same kind of guidelines I did last year but it just felt different!

Did another meeting after school today, although again there were not many teachers there to be involved.  I showed maths strategies and then we discussed the the link school programme and the outcomes and shared programme we would have between Castlefield and Gwengwe.  This was a really big positive of the trip; to be able to discuss and decide together what our partnership agreement would be and this did make it seem much more of a true partnership.

I was supposed to be going for a run with Lameck and using my phone but there were loads of kids with me colouring etc when he arrived and some of them would practically not let us go unless they could come too.  Sixteen of them ended up coming with us and they managed fine although the strategy some of them used was to run a bit as fast as they could and then lie down and have a rest until we caught up!

Mme Gwengwe came round tonight and I made pasta which we mixed with tomatoes and onions.  I also had baked beans and sweetcorn with me.  Everyone loved it all and I had tunnocks teacakes and macaroon to finish off.


Wednesday 15th July

Difficult day today trying to show group, rotational work.  I did similar activities in St 1, 2 and then 3 which included the washing line, giant chalk on the floor, giant floor number puzzles, card games/matching activities.  It worked with varying degrees of success, it was hard work explaining to the teachers how it would work!  I did the same with different activities in St 4 but it was not as good as the activities were not as active.  I had a Scottish maths game with me for St 5, 6 and 7 which again took a long time to explain.




I gave each child in the school a pencil and a sticker which they were really excited about.  I had taken Connect 4, Who’s Who and Uno last year but we never got round to them.  The HT asked today how to play them so after school with many of the older kids sitting around outside watching them we played them together.  Connect 4 was a great success although it is not so good only been able to have 2 players at a time.  Who’s Who did not work although I am not sure whether it was me or the HT getting it wrong.  Uno was great though (I only learned how to play the previous week at Clare’s HT house) as so many could play at the same time and they all got it right away.

Lameck and I were supposed to be going up to the next village today to see a family that I had visited last year as the mother had asked to see me again and again about 25 boys decided they were coming too including a lot of them ones I knew really well by now (and who were favourites).  It was sweet actually as they said they did not want to leave as it was my last full day and last chance for them to be with me and they all wanted to escort me!

I felt terrible though as for once I had no bubbles or anything with me for the kids up there and I had had last year, plus now I had all these boys with me who just sat while I was there, as did everyone!  I got given bananas and nuts though as I left and I shared them with the boys when we left which they were delighted about.

I spent the rest of the afternoon playing with all the kids and went in about 6pm planning to get my gifts out for my family.  When I came back out of the house though Lameck was there with about 40 kids who refused to go away even though it was dark and they were probably hungry because it was my last night and they wanted to spend more time with me and talk to me.  So I encouraged them to ask me questions which Lameck could translate and of course the first question was when I was going to come back again!  Some of the more confident boys were saying they were coming back to Scotland with me!


Thursday 16th July

Sports day today! I did potted sports with St 1 and 2, then 3 and 4 and then 5, 6 and 7 after races for each class.  I got some St 5 pupils to help at each station which worked well and everyone really seemed to enjoy it.  I had beat the goalie, netball shooting, skittles with my old water bottles refilled, beans bags on their head while running, skipping and a few others.  St 5, 6 and 7 were a bit less interested/enthusiastic but I think that was partly as it was near the end of the day and it very hot!




We did races again this year for each class but they did the same as last year and whenever it was obvious that someone was winning everyone else stopped and just let him/her win.

My taxi driver had turned up about 3 hours early (not complaining though) and he was jappy just to wait for me.  The kids helped clear up and then walked me back to the house singing, dancing and chanting.  They all then waited while I finished packing me bag and had my lunch (with the taxi driver!)

I was sobbing again when it was time to go, just like last year and there were some very sad faces and a few tears from some of the pupils.  The kids surrounded the car and Billy could barely move the taxi, he must have been going about 3 miles p/hr while the kids danced at the front and pushed from the back and sides.  He was very patient and did not seem to mind.  It took about 45 mins to get from the house to the top of the hill.  It was really quite a surreal experience and it did not help me to stop crying!



And so as it started at the airport with a fuss to get to the hotel so it finished with me having a fuss at the airport.  I was going to just wait at the airport for my flight at 2am but when we got there there was nothing open and there would not be as at 6pm the next flight out (or in) would be mine!

Billy ended up taking me to a nearby hotel/guesthouse and when he explained they let me stay there and have dinner/read/watch t.v.  There was a young guy there who was living there and a student and he spoke excellent english so we had some interesting conversations and then Billy had arranged for another taxi driver to come and pick me up at about 11pm so I still had a while to wait!


21 03 2009

I was running the blogging part of my blogging and wiki course again this week, twice, and was ashamed that I had not posted in so long as the attendees were using my blogroll to get to others.  I resolved to post that night (Monday) and yet here I am on Sat morning just getting round to it, although about two hours later than planned after catching up on loads of other peoples blogs and finding some great new ideas, especially new wikis that I can show at the wiki part of the course next week.

I have just felt too busy to blog even though I have had loads I could have written about this term.  I have been keeping my running one up to date as it is my training diary as well as a blog and so it has taken priority.

Work has been super busy, but brilliant, I have been trying to train for these crazy running races I am doing (which are getting frighteningly closer) and I this last couple of weeks I have travelling around the country a bit and organising my summer!

In the last two weeks I have been in Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow at a series of networking events for International Education masterclassers and others like global teachers and link schools.  I was there with the charity LINK that I went to Malawi with to highlight the glow group I am working on with them which will be primarily for global teachers and link schools but obviously for anyone else who wants to join as well.  It will sit within national international education glow group and one of the things I was doing was gathering resources from people to share within the group.

Glow was one of the things brought up quite often, especially when in the afternoons the groups split into their local authority groupings with some QIO’s present by this point.  It was fascinating to hear what different councils thought of Glow, obviously based on the experiences that they had to date and what stage their council were at in rolling it out.  It made me realise just how far SLC and other early adopters like Dundee had come when I when I came into contact with authorities who were at the very beginning stages.  I did feel bad talking about sharing resources and ideas etc on Glow when some teachers still seem very far away from getting a glow account.

There seem to be many different ways of rolling it out within authorities and I am not even going to pretend to begin to understand the work needed in setting up the infrastructure for local authorities when they sign up. However with the amount of content now on the national site both in terms of resources and in glow groups  it seems unfair for teachers not to at least get their username and password so that they can access the national site, even if nothing else is available for them at a school or local authority level.  I  did hear of this happening a bit in one council but I am sure there are very good reasons for it not happening too!

I had three brilliant days of co-operative learning training recently and have since been anxious to try it out with a class, particularly since I am now expected to deliver training on it.  So I asked at Castlefield and will be trying it out with a class who are particularly in need of some social skills!  I was amazed at the training at the things I thought I had been doing well in group work that were really just scratching surface and I now feel really enthused to try out things ‘properly’ like think, pair, share and peer teaching as just two examples.  I would previously have said I was doing these things, but now have an entirely new take on them!

I am going to tie in this work with Malawi.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  My school has recently become an official link school with the school I was in in Malawi (Gwengwe Primary) but I was was not feeling terribly enthused as I was unsure of how to take it forward when I was not actually there.  Going into the school this week to talk to the SMT about it and getting their support has helped, as did going to all of the networking events and getting ideas and the fact that just this week, after huge amounts of time on the phone, I have booked flights and trips for the summer.

I am going to Malawi for 2 weeks with one of the other teachers from the programme last year.  We are doing this independently although since we are both link schools the folk from LINK out there will give us a hand getting to our schools, either themselves or by arranging transport for us.  I am then leaving and going back to Nairobi to then travel to Tanzania and climing Mount Kiliminjaro.  I was talking about this last year so I had the idea before I knew about the celebs doing it!  I paid attention to what they did to prepare though and have watched the programme twice now so it was actually useful that they did it first!  In fact it persuaded me into spending yet more money to do a longer trek and not just doing the quickie, cheaper one to the top which you have less chance of getting to the top with anyway!  Not that I was trying to cut corners but with a brand new kitchen and huge total costs for this trip in total I was a bit worried!  When I saw how slowly Fearne Cotton was wallking and how much of a struggle it was for her I thought I would pay atttention!

Travelling back to Nairobi after that and going onto the Masai Mara for a three day camping safari and finishing with a couple of days in Nairobi.

The Kiliminjaro trek is partly to help raise funds for the teachers house I am raising money for in my village.  I am looking forward to going out and telling them that I am doing this for them and hopefully I will be past halfway by that point with a further very generous sum to come from someone if I make it to to the top of Kili.

I had sent letters asking about coming to stay again which unfortunately never arrived and so I had to text and ask but I got lovely texts back from my head teacher saying they would love to have me back:

“Caroline, your message has answered the dreams of a lot of people here.  They were asking me to call you and have a visit at Gwengwe school,  but I had nowhere to start.  Come and visit us.  You are most welcome.  The village headsmen, the family and all the teachers want to see you again.  The DEM and PEA say you are most welcome.  I am Jimu”

I since then asked them what they wanted to work on while I was there and they said english grammar, alphabetical order, global map, phonics and other things for maths.  Now despite my A at English higher I would not say my english grammar was the best and neither would my dad whenever he proof reads my assignments.  I am also not convinved that should really be a priority but I am going to keep thinking of it in terms of infants and maybe things like sentences and simple ideas of verbs, adjectives etc.  I would like to do more this year where I worked in english but the teachers helped the pupils to do it in Chichewa so they have a better understanding.

I would like to take out really simple jolly phonics books as well as teachers guides and other picture books and loads of other resources.  I will have to buy gradually over the next few months since I am already spending so much on the trip as a whole.  As part of the co-operative learning teaching I will try to enthuse the class I am working with at Castlefield to do things/make things/write to Malawi and work with the rest of the school to raise awareness and get behind the link and my visit.

More to follow on all of this after the holidays and a couple of questions to finish this one.

I signed up to twitter but have not really got into posting although I do log in and see what other people are saying.  It is blocked at work and I do not have present have internet access on my phone, although not sure if I can change this.  Can I send ordinary texts to twitter that would go on the web – that would be useful, and I hope interesting, when I was in Malawi again.  It was hard enough getting phone reception though never mind internet access so I doubt I would be able to do it through the internet even if I had it on my phone. 

Also I have been trying for a while to put powerpoints on slideshare, to then put on glow – it looks so nice!  These are all to do with Malawi and are reasonably big with lots of photos.  I am having terrible trouble getting them onto slideshare and just wanted to check if this was down to the photos and size of them – if it is I will just have to split them into smaller sections.

New Year – New Challenges for Justgiving

31 12 2008

Tomorrow (New Years Day) I will be completing (hopefully!) my first challenge of the year to raise money for the school I worked in in Malawi.

I wish to raise money to build a teacher’s house in the village so that there can be another qualified teacher employed in the school.  At the moment there are 7 classes, with only three qualified teachers and 3 volunteer teachers.  These qualified teachers include the head teacher and the deputy head teacher.  The PEA (Education advisor for the area) would also like Gwengwe Primary and one or two others in the area to be extended to have the full 8 stage classes they should have so this is another reason for needing another qualified teacher.  With these schools going up to St8 this would also mean the possibility of a secondary school being built in the area which would be of benefit to many.  I believe then that the building of a teacher’s house would be a sustainable thing to do for the village and surrounding area.  Teachers do not generally like to work in rural areas and female teachers are often tied to what/where their husbands are working but a teacher’s house being available does help to encourage them to rural areas.

Castlefield Primary have just established a link through the organisation Link Community Development that I was in Malawi with and they will be helping with some fundraising but it is a relatively small school and I would neither want, nor expect, that they would make any more than a contribution. 

I am going to try out a couple of new challenges this year to help raise money, and one or two that I have done before!


1st Jan – Edinburgh Triathlon

25th April – Highland Fling (53 mile ultra marathon from Milngavie to Tyndrum on the West Highland Way)

31st May – Edinburgh Marathon

12th August – Devil of the Highlands (42 mile ultramarathon from Tyndrum to Fort William on the WHW)

There will also be an autumn marathon (not decided which one yet), possibly another triathlon and whatever else I can think up.  Ideas welcome – but please not anything that involves heights!  I have never done a triathlon or ultra marathon before so these are brand new things for me – and a bit scary!

I am going back to Malawi to my school and village this summer and would love to go to Tanzania and climb Mount Kiliminjaro afterwards as one of my challenges but I do not know if I will have enough cash to go (a new kitchen in January is going to eat into my travel savings!)

20 miles on the WHW, training for the Fling

20 miles on the WHW, training for the Fling

My training for the triathlon has been patchy to say the least, some would say non-existent but I am still determined to do it as it is the first thing I am doing to raise money.  I have got into a bit of a habit of swimming first thing in the morning but have had no practice in a 50 metre pool.  Cycling training in winter has been really hard, as I am never home in daylight so it is only really weekends that I would have had the chance to practice and I was not very good at getting time for that.  The last few times I have tried to go out my chain has burst and got stuck  halfway out each tme so that involved some walking with the bike, phonecalls and some help on xmas eve  from a nice man on his bike stopping to help me.  And then the bit that should have been easiest could turn into a nightmare!  I have not run in 3 1/2 weeks as I had been having pain behind my right knee and have been to the sports pyhsio at Hampden who said it was a weakness in my right glute and hamstring, gave me exercises to build up the muscle and told me not to run!  I kept quiet about the triathlon.  So hopefully the pain will be gone when I run tomorrow!  I won’t even go into the traumas of what to wear at various points!  Not the best preparation all in all but hopefully it will be a laugh – and not too cold in Edinburgh!

I have set up a justgiving site, follow the links/RSS feed on the right hand side, and I would really appreciate any donations through the year, as I attempt to reach a total of £2000.  I have never tried to raise so much before, although I know there are many people who reguarly raise much more than that.  I am not very good at asking though!

Reunion weekend

2 11 2008

I have been in 12 different schools during the last 2 weeks, for Malawi talks, rich task discussions and work on Glow.  It has been really interesting going into the different schools, especially the rural ones around Strathaven and seeing how they work in different ways.

The Glow Mentors in each school have been really interested in how they can start to use Glow for learning and teaching and I have been really encouraged by this and am keen to get in and work with the teachers in the classroom.  I now have some times set up in a couple of schools to do this.  I am drinking far too much tea and coffee though from being offered it everywhere I go!

I also did my first CAT night in another school by myself – luckily I was too busy in other schools to worry about it too much before it started.  I was doing the e-beam and easiteach and went through the programmes first and then was lucky enough to have some time left over for them to practice using it.  This was what made the difference I think as they were apprehensive while I was showing a lot of the different things that could be done but giving them the chance to try them out right away would help them to remember it.  I got really positive feedback from it.

Glasgow Airport 27th June

Glasgow Airport 27th June

Friday and Saturday this week I was at the Stirling Managment Centre for our Global Teachers post-placement training weekend.  This was done in a different way to previous years.  LTS have now partnered up with LINK Scotland to do the Global Teachers Programme and so Friday was a nationwide conference for all present and previous Global Teachers, LINK schools co-ordinators and this years participants to Uguanda with SCIPD in partnership between LTS and LINK, as I suppose a kind of launch of this and to allow all of us to begin to network with each other.

Kaye Livingstone and Nick Morgan from LTS spoke to us and then a couple of global teachers.  It was a really positive day I thought as hopefully from this people should be able to swap ideas and help each other.  One of the things we were discussing was Glow.  Nick and I have been working on a few ideas for the national site and I mocked up a Global Teachers group, although in reality I think this would change to include link schools too, so that people could see how they could share ideas and resources that way.  There was a really positive reaction to this, I thought, even though the vast majority of the people there were not even on Glow yet.  I am going to do this, and my children’s Malawi glow group, as my follow up work for Glow and will be able to work with the Link staff on this which will be good as they are really enthusiastic about it too.

In the evening and on Saturday it was just our group who were there, to reflect on the experience and start thinking about our follow-up work.  It was great to all meet up again and share what we had been up to – and we finished at 2:00pm on the Saturday so still had some of our weekend left!  It was somewhat nicer than being at the youth hostel in Edinburgh for our training although we were only at the management centre because it was LTS who organised and funded the conference.

I feel quite strongly from discussions at the weekend that I want to do something a bit more sustainable with pupils in South Lanarkshire, not just going in to do assemblies and then leaving again. I have not quite worked out what yet though!

New Job

22 09 2008

Now I can finally write about my new job!  I am on secondment with South Lanarkshire Council as a Development Officer.  I am working on Glow and more specifically we hope to focus on how to help teachers to use Glow to support learning and teaching.  Other parts of my remit include the Curriculum for Excellence area of literacy and I am doing a lot of International Development as well, plus looking at gender.  So quite a few things on my remit! 

I am really enjoying it so far and am getting the chance to do a lot of different things.  One new challenge for me will be working with secondary schools on International Development as I have set up talks/questions and answer sessions/workshop afternoons with several schools, working with first to fifth year.  I can’t believe I was worried about going on secondment in terms of not being able to do my follow up work for LINK as this has actually led me, even in this short time, to have far more opportunity to disseminate information to pupils across the council than I would have had if I was in class.

I have only ever looked after kids, worked in pubs or restaurants or taught so it is a novel experience for me to be working in an office.  It’s great to have a change!

What happened next….

7 09 2008

On the plus side these posts should not now be so long, on the minus side for those reading there will be less photos to break it up, although that is a plus for me as it was a really annoying part of it! 

There are less photos now as I finished my memory cards when I left the village and had already deleted lots of photos, there were no more that I felt I did not mind losing.  I can’t believe I did not take the other camera as well as that had about another 600 photos available!  I had 420 or so that I used up on mine.  I took a lot of video footage to make up for it and some photos on the video camera but they did not turn out very well.  We are all swapping photos so I will get some but it is taking a while.

Anyway, when we left the village we had another 4 teachers to pick up and I spent 5 hours in the land rover!  First we had to go and meet the Isuzu with two teachers in it and swap over so all the luggage was in that and we were all in the landrover.  We were early to meet them in Mayani and got to go and have a wander around.  I met one of the boys from St5 which was nice to get to say bye to him and then another 3 people I knew from other schools or World Vision. It was really bizarre – I don’t meet people I know randomly wandering around Glasgow!

We picked up Jill, Clare and Kim and got to have lunch at Kim’s house which was good since I had met them before.  We were all really emotional every time one of us was saying bye to our family, that is until we picked up Robert – he wasn’t emotional!  I started to feel quite numb though as I was so upset to have left my kids.

Sharon and I discovered when we arrived at Panjira Lodge that we had to share which at the time we were a bit annoyed about, as even though we had got on well we both wanted our own space.  I think we were both the same in that we were a bit worried what we were going to feel like that night and would rather have been by ourselves.

Our bedroom in Panjira Lodge

Our bedroom in Panjira Lodge

the bathroom caused some problems later!  And was crawling with ants!

the bathroom caused some problems later! And was crawling with ants!


We had a bit of time when we got back before dinner, during which time Taggart came on Malawi tv!  Not that we had a tv in our room, far from it, but there was one in the dining room.  Although I have not written it I am sure we went down to the supermarket and bought crisps and chocolate.  I was determined this would be a one off as a treat for feeling so emotional but it would turn out to be a very regular occurance.  It was not what I planned after not having any treats etc in the village to stay good!  Dinners (and lunches when we were there) were always pretty much the same in Panjire Lodge – rice and veg curry (or stew which meant the same as the curry without the spices) and green veg.  It was fine but got very samey!

outside at Panjira Lodge

outside at Panjira Lodge

We had to have a meeting that night which we were not expecting, in fact we were quite shocked, and very, very tired.  I actually did find it okay in the end though, we were just asked to highlight professional and personal highlights and challenges.  My highlights were the running with the kids and the paired reading.  I can’t remember my professional challenge but it was probably the timekeeping and professionalism of the teachers.  I could not think of a personal challenge as everything I had thought would be a challenge, ie toilets, rats, english were not at all so I said being forced to eat so much.  These were anonymous and we had them on flip charts in small groups but it was glaringly obvious which mine were of the personal ones!

Sunday 20th July

We actually got a couple of hours off this morning!  Got to go on the computers in the office and that was when I first updated my blog myself.  I had also just found out that Debs was pregnant and so spent the rest of the time reading her blog as she had not published her whw race report either before I left.  Other people were emailing or reading news etc but that was far more interesting, and exciting to read about the baby!

just outside our hotel - the prison is the white building on the right!

just outside our hotel - the prison is the white building on the right!

Sharon and I realised today that actually it was fine to be sharing, we had just been unsure of how we would be last night and in fact it turned out to be great fun and I enjoyed this part of the trip so much partly because of this.  We maybe encouraged each other a bit too much with the chocolate though!  It was actually nice to have someone there to talk over what had happened to each of us.

We spent some more time self-evaluating in the morning and what we ended up with was sheets and sheets of all of the things we had all achieved in our schools.  This made us all a lot happier and more confident about our time there to see it all up on the wall and it look like a huge amount.

We split up in the afternoon to do our inset planning.  There were 14 of us divided into different groups for 4 days of inset.  We each got one day off.  We split into groups of the people who were planning for the inset and then had another that we would be participating in but not doing the planning for and another on the last day that we would plan for later in the week.

Sharon, Kirsty, Claire, Kristeen and I were doing the planning for the leadership and management inset, during which we would try to hit some of the hard issues like timekeeping, timetabling and professionalism.  We were still planning for it in the evening after dinner – see the photo!  It was really cold in the lodge, especially at night and we were all so tired it was surprising we managed to leave the room and get back to our own to go to sleep!  Incidentally we were not having to plan during the day in the bedrooms, it was only as we were so cold and tired at night!

a bit tired!

a bit tired!

Monday 21st July

We basically worked all day on the insets today.  It was very hard going and far harder than being in our villages.  We all felt the timetabling for all of this was difficult with so much prep to do when we were so tired but it was Link’s first time of trying these insets and they openly said they were learning to!  Ultimately it would be well worth it as they went so well and we felt the teachers got a lot out of it but it was hard at this stage.  We had to finish our own prep and then hear from the other groups what our other day was that we were participating in was like and explain to the others about ours.  None of us, for obvious reasons, felt as prepared for the other one as for the one we had prepared for.

I felt this was really useful, I had work with peers on something difficult and explain it to others.  It involved working with Master, who was part of the link staff and the PEA for a different zone whom I had not met before so there were a lot issues to work through and we had to be quite diplomatic too!

We were all desperate to go out for dinner tonight as it would be the first time in the trip we chose our own food and we just wanted to go somewhere different and not associated with where we were working.  On reflection it was a bad idea as were served and it took a long time to get seated ie 1 and 1/2 hours, although once seated we were served quickly.  This was despite stating the time we wanted to eat at when we ordered at lunchtime!  It was at Dedza pottery which is lovely though and I think probably the only really decent place to eat in Dedza!  It also turned out to be a bad idea as after no dairy or rich food for weeks some of us felt quite an effect afterwards as it was very much like that there!

Frustrating start to the day, but it ended up a highlight!

2 09 2008

Thursday 17th July

Again I sneaked a bit of marmite for my bread today – it felt like such a treat!  The kids were really late today and we did not get started for ages.  I found today frustrating because the head teacher had been called away to fill in some forms (why did someone, like the PEA, not come round with them!) and would be away all day and the teachers, although definately not the pupils, were in holiday mode and really winding down.  This was hard for me as I knew this would be the last teaching day and there was still so much I wanted to do.  I found myself being quite tetchy with the teachers and I know this was wrong, and knew it at the time!, but our time was so short we wanted to make the most of it.  They did not seem to notice or pay any attention to it if they did though.  I was glad at the weeked when I found out that most of us had felt like that and had been in the same sort of mood as I had felt really bad about it.

I kept having to tell myself that they get paid a pittance etc and that if visitors came to use at the end of term with new things to try out and do we would have told them where to go probably, whether politely or not I am not sure!

I did some more activities with St 1 and 2 first again and looked in a few times on St 6 and 7.  I had asked the deputy if they could reply to the letters that the p.6 class had written to them so they were thrilled to be doing that and spent a long time on it.  I, mistakenly I think now, had not been sure how much english they would be able to write and so we gave a few starters for them like name, age, family members, what they liked in and out of school and so they just ended up using those and they probably could have added more of their own.  I am sure they will be writing again though!  I have loved working with these 2 classes as they got more and more confident about trying their english, the boys hung out with me in the afternoons, they loved all the activities and trying out things like the dancing and the teacher being so enthusiastic made such a difference too.

St 1 and 2 drawing letters on each others backs

St 1 and 2 drawing letters on each others backs


St 6 and 7 pupils writing letters to pupils here

St 6 and 7 pupils writing letters to pupils here

I then went into St 3-5 which because the HT was away were being split between the St 3 and St 4 teachers, the St4 teacher actually being there today was amazing!  It seeemed though that unless I was actually in the room there was no work being done.  And this was not that there was work there and the children were not doing it, it was that they had not even been given any work and the teacher was away doing whatever else they liked.  I ended up getting so annoyed that I went to clear out the two cupboards in the school as they had been horrifying me!  One was filled with rubbish really and was easy to clear out and sort.  The other was full of textbooks and they were in an awful state.  The photograph is not even from when I began as I did not think to take the photo till later.

and after!

and after!

I could not believe they could let textbooks get in that mess and yet they were complaining about not having certain ones etc.  They were mostly infant books and some junior, as everyone expcept the infants tends to take their books home with them.  Even if they were not being used anymore it was still an awful way to leave books and I was going to be leaving a lot of gifts etc behind so did not want them to end up the same way – hence me taking a photo of it tidy!  I have sent a copy of both photos back to the school, as well as many, many nicer ones, to encourage them to keep it tidy.   I did warm them I was going to do that!

One of the things I was going to be leaving was 50 story books with 10 different stories in Chichewa for the pupils.  These are beautifully illustrated and brand new and I did not want them ending up the same way!  It was the children at Castlefield who raised the money for these and for the parachute.  I then, in Dedza, bought a further 20 in English so they could have the same books in both languages.

Virsula the Giant

Virsula the Giant

I really wanted it to be demonstrated how to look after the books and for the children to see them and know about them so that hopefully they would not just stay in the cupboard so I decided to disrupt lessons – well if you could have called it that anyway – and ask to do some paired reading!

I took the books and explained this concept to the deputy head who as usual was very excited and launched into a big explanation to St6 and 7 about how, with prompting from me, to look after the books and how they should be read to younger ones.  They were very excited!

Mr Kalivute explaining about the books

Mr Kalivute explaining about the books

We had break and then brought all the children who were left into the St1 classroom and explained what we were going to do, rather unfortuntely the infants had already gone home but that was probably enough children for the first time anyway.  Mr Kalivute spent ages explaining how to look after them etc again but I had to close my eyes when then seniors came to pick a book as they were all grabbing and pulling them as they were so excited.  They quickly picked kids to read to and went outside.  Luckily the coldness of this week was going and it was nice and sunny.  I expressly told all of the teachers I wanted them to be involved and go round and see what the pupils were doing and listening in.  So no wandering off for them and to be fair they didn’t as they were really interested too.  I had suggested maybe about 20 mins but it lasted an hour as they were all so interested in the stories and pictures and they just kept swapping the books around. 

He is following the words with his finger!

He is using his finger to follow the words!

 The older ones were amazing; they used their finger to follow the words for the younger ones, spoke with expression, asked questions about the pictures and got the younger ones to repeat bits back to them.  Some of this we had told them about but I am sure they used their fingers instinctively. 

I love the smiles in this photo

I love the smiles in this photo

This whole activity made me feel so much better about this last day of teaching as I think everyone learned so much and the books are, I hope, such a useful gift that I am leaving them.  Some of the pupils actually taught some of the teachers a couple of things I think!  Even better was that then Mr Kalivute brought them all back together and was asking open questions about the stories to all of the children.  I really could have hugged him as I was so pleased with what he was doing, everyday, but that is so not the done thing in Malawi, certainly not between opposite sexes.   When asked about personal and professional highlights I now found it easy to pick – going running with all of the children was definetely my personal highlight and my professional one was the paired reading as it really perked me up and had a little of everything in it.  I wrote a case study about these for the LINK Malawi office.

Check out the pictures, they will never have seen books like this!

Check out the pictures, they will never have seen books like this!

I took St 5, 6 and 7 off to do some more dancing while the teachers did the second part of the testing with the St3.  They were supposed to do it yesterday but most of them were part of the World Vision visit and did not want to leave the various queues which was fair enough really, it was just bad planning that we did not know about that beforehand and could have planned different days.  We had just got them to do it straightaway and not go home for lunch first as I did not think it was going to take that long but, and this really angered me, the teachers were totally unprepared for it and kept the children waiting for ages while the faffed (there is no better word) about not even trying very hard to get ready.  So not only did they keep the children waiting about an hour before starting but they also had had no lunch.  That would just not be done here at all but they had no concept that the children mattered!  They would not even have thanked them for staying back if I had not insisted on them saying it about three times from me and there was no praise.  I was feeling doubly bad as it was explained that it was really because of me being there that this was being done and I did not want them to think I was making them stay back etc!  It is not part of their culture to thank children ect for that kind of thing but I just thought it was bad manners.  They were probably also worried about what the results were going to show.  The maths results were a lot better than the Chichewa marks but this had been expected and is really the same in all tests nationwide.  It only reinforces the fact that it is reading that is more of a problem.  I gave the children biscuits that I had bought for them to keep them going and then a balloon each as a reward.

The boys who did a lot of the dancing with me, not quite sure why they had their hands in my hair!
The boys who did a lot of the dancing with me, not quite sure why they had their hands in my hair!

Mr Balaka was there for some of the afternoon and I took the opportunity to ask him what he thought would most improve schools in his zone and he said more teachers houses as the teachers do not want to come and live in rural areas but if there is a teachers house it does encourage them to come.  He would like several schools in his zone to move to having eight standards including Gwengwe, but my school would definetely need another teachers house for this as you could not add on another class without having another qualified teacher there.  There are enough volunteer teachers already.  Hence why I would like to raise money for another teacher’s house in my village as this confirmed what the pupils had said the day before about wanting more teachers.

We had a staff meeting after the testing and I softened them up with fanta and scottish food like shortbread, macaroon and tablet.   I did maybe come across quite harshly at this point but I was really trying to get the message across about timekeeping – how can you expect the children to come on time if you do not – and staying in the class, which I actually found to worse in this school than the timekeeping, especially after what I heard from some other people when we all met up again!  Other than that we went through everything we had achieved since I got here, revised some things like thinking skills and questioning and talked about how they would carry things on.  I know I did most of the talking here and that was totally wrong but I was so aware of time marching on and wanting to get through things but I really should have let them have more discussion time.  That was bad modelling of a staff meeting!

Things we did while I was there

Things we did while I was there

I had been adament that I would have to go and use my phone afterwards as I wanted to see if I had a message yet about when I would be picked up by link on Saturday so I could tell the pupils and it was also my wedding anniversary so I had thought I had better give a call home!  Of course we got all the way up the hill before I realised that the batteries on both of my phones were dead.  I knew one had been about to go but I had just had the other recharged in Mayani on Tuesday so that should have been fine.  I had played some of the boys some music on it though and must have left it on so there was nothing!  That was me, I knew I was in trouble when I got home!  In the immediate future I was more worried about not getting the message from Link as I had no clue when they would come and really restricted what I could do on the Saturday.  The boys tried to come up with solutions of someone going to Mayani in the morning to get it charged but I did not want to waste their time doing that and just left it.

gooli-wan-gooli or something like that.  Part of their witchcraft traditions.

gooli-wan-gooli or something like that. Part of their witchcraft traditions.

When we got back I went to do some work in the classroom but a couple of the boys came and called me down to the bottom of the hill at the back of the school.  I was totally mystified as to what I was to see but it was a large group of the St6 and 7 boys making me my mat out of bamboo that the children had brought in the materials for.  I had wondered why Philipo had a knife with him to school that would have been a dangerous weapon in a ned’s hands in Glasgow.  And probably similar has been seen in schools here!

Some of the boys who made the mat

Some of the boys who made the mat

I stood for ages watching them, really touched at how much effort they were putting into this and how much time it was going to take them.  They ended up bringing me down a desk and chair and I brought down my work (they told me to run and be quick while I was doing this as they did not want me to miss anything!) and I did some work while they worked and we had an awful lot of amusing, if stilted, conversations. Some of the younger kids came down as well when they realised I was there and the bigger ones tried to chase them away until they realised that I did not mind them being there and they were practically cuddling up to me on the chair – no wonder as it was getting cold as it was quite late in the afternoon!  I was there for 2 hours and they had started before that and continued with detailing it the next day, I was about in tears at the time and effort they put in and it really was from here on in that I was an emotional wreck about leaving.

using that sharp knife!

using that sharp knife!


Some of the boys at the end of the afternoon

Some of the boys at the end of the afternoon


One of the other global teachers I was with, and who was in the same zone as me, started a blog shortly before we left for Malawi.  Check it out at

Teaching by sign language

25 08 2008
Monday 14th July was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life and yet was also one of the best days that I had in school.  In typical Malawi time wasting fashion all of the qualified teachers in the zone had to go the TDC (Teacher Development Centre) during school hours to be head counted.  As this was a good couple of hours walk away this obviously stopped them coming to school. 

This happened all over the district this week with some schools closing for the day.  My teachers had only found out on Friday or Saturday and did not think of closing the school which was good for me in the end.

This left myself, the volunteer teacher in ST3 and the volunteer teacher who was starting for her first day in St2.  The volunteer teacher in St4 was also away as he had taken up a post with World Vision and although said he would still be able to teach as well was pretty much away at training events etc from the beginning of this week.   This was highly frustrating as I had just managed to get another volunteer teacher so there would have been 6 teachers and now we were pretty much back to 5 again.

I had jokingly asked Lameck (the St1 teacher’s 18 year old son that I ran with and hung out with quite a lot) if he wanted to come in and help me for the day by translating in the different classes I went into.  Of course he said he would and then I felt really bad but actually I think he was enjoying spening time with me, practicing his english and learning new things as he asked me so many questions all of the time.  He was able to do this because he had finished secondary school the year before but had not got a good enough mark in his engish exam to progress to uni so was resitting it this year but this meant he was just studying from home through the year, hence why he was able to spend so much time with me.  You had to get a certain grade in english to be able to progress any further.

I think it showed the difference in cultures when he said to me near the end of my time there that he had learnt so much from me in terms of planning and being organised as I was always saying I had this, this and this to do today and knew what order I was going to do them in and what time I would be going running etc.  They were obviously not used to that at all and he was clever and would presumably have had a bit more of a structured environment in the secondary school but it was still so different.  I know that I could have done with having more time there to get used to not being so driven by time and lists.  I should probably have stopped wearing my watch but that would be more than I could bear and I still had lists on the go out there!  Somewhere in the middle between both cultures would great but that is what we say about everything!

Mr Kalivute did come into the school first thing in the morning since he lived in the teacher’s house right beside the school.  He gave Lameck a class though so that was my translator gone!  In some ways it shows how easy it could be for someone with an education and good english to teach in Malawi as the curriculum and teacher’s guides are so prescribed that he could just pick up the book and teach it.  Also with behaviour being so good there was no need to have training in behaviour management etc.  Not that I saw anyway; I am sure there are behaviour issues in other areas.  There are the other issues of fall out, time keeping etc that schools in the rural areas have to deal with.

Mr Kalivute...on a Saturday!

Mr Kalivute...on a Saturday!

So the St3 volunteer teacher took St1 and 3, the new teacher took just her own St2 class, Lameck too St 4 and 5 and Mr Kalivute had spent a long time preparing work to leave for St 6 and 7 which was questions which they had to use their own notes from previous work to answer.  Absence on previous days did end up causing a bit of bother with this!  I popped in and out on them a lot but they were so hard working and just got on with it fine themselves.

St6 and 7 working hard

St6 and 7 working hard

I started in St 5 and did some maths with them and let Lameck take St4, just calling him in one on the odd occasion when I could not make myself understood.  We did the rythmn clapping for their tables and used the number fans and then I gave them some written work which we then swapped over and, very simplistically, peer marked.  I was very anxious to get this up and running as the teachers, particularly in the bigger classes, wasted so much time individually marking each child’s work – in the class!  So the children sat there doing nothing while the sums were marked and then nothing was done about corrections etc either.  This was not as much of a problem at Gwengwe though as I had seen last year in the urban schools where the classes were huge.  I loved this whole time in St5 and they loved it too as they were so keen – desperate! – to learn and had an absolute ball trying out anything different.  There was probably an element of the fact I was doing it as well and that we had a good laugh trying to understand each other. 

hanging out at break time

hanging out at break time

Looking back it seems very strange to have been in school and to have been smiling and laughing all of the time while teaching as that is so different to how I have behaved with my p.7’s this year.  I am not just blaming the children here either, maybe sometimes I have not given them enough credit for what they could cope with in terms of humour and still get on with their work.  It would just be blissful though to be teaching Malawian children, and I am sure any children from less developed countries, all of the time as you could actually teach all of the time instead of dealing with disruptive behaviour so much and they would want to learn.

It was very hard to get accross to the teachers that they are the most important resource in the classroom and they do not need lots of other things to teach with and we tried to constantly reinforce this later at the inservice training but they still it as an impossible task without the things that we have.

Digression over.

I did the same without the written work with St1 and they then started doing it whenever they saw for the rest of the week which was something I just found so cute.  I also worked in St3 on similar things for a while and loved it!  St2 were also loving having a teacher today and the fact that they now had a classroom so that made the two hour meeting on Sunday morning and the amount of persuading I had to do worth it right away.

I also spent time moving desks around etc; it had been incredibly frustrating to come in that morning after sorting them on Friday to find they had been moved about for choir practice and church!  Another hazard of only having lockable doors in two classrooms!  

I did keep going into St6 and 7 but they solidly worked away, even refusing to come out for the first break because they had not finished.  Nearer second break I sat and did some work on number cards while they worked and they started asking me to help them with the social studies questions they were doing and so I ended up going over it all with them as a class as it was the same questions I was being asked all of the time.  They were so pleased about this because it meant they would all finish their work and because I was spending time with them.

Still working hard

Still working hard

After break I took them and St5 for maths and did splat and the times tables round cards that I had just made.  I, and consequently them, ended up crying with laughter at trying to explain and then get the games going but it worked well once we mananged that.  This continued when we gave up on lessosn after this and I took them outside to play rounders with the bat and ball I had brought.  Half the school ended up playing, although it was only a very vague sort of rounders as that was by far the hardest thing of the day to explain even with Lameck’s help.  They did not get the idea of counting points for getting round but instead seemed to go by how many people the fielders got out and whoever the batting team were they got very nervous about trying to bat and often passed it onto someone else!

Lameck, Patrick and Philippe, my bodyguards as I called them in Chichewa!, came with me while I used my phone.  As Lameck was there I managed to get a bit more information from the two boys through translation mostly so that was nice.  I asked them what they had expected before I came and they were talking about how they thought the teacher would just spend time with the other teachers and not them so they were pleasantly surprised.  They wanted me to come back again when the new term starts and to come back to Malawi later when their english is better so they can talk to me properly!

With my bodyguards, Phillipe and Patrick

With my bodyguards, Phillipe and Patrick

It had turned a bit colder today after two lovely weeks so there were not really many children about playing in the afternoon and I was able to work in the school without feeling that I should be doing something else with them and I took the chance to get a lot of work done.  I had felt though that there were a lot of children who were not warm enough at school today.  It is hard because I know that for most of the year it is very hot and so they do not need many clothes and that the stone walls and floors in the classroom without sun coming in keeps them cool but I just wanted to be able to buy them all a jumper today!

Lameck could not run with me today as he came down and said he had felt the first signs of malaria coming on after school which I was really shocked at but he said he would be fine as he had taken the preventative drugs but that he better not run!!!  It was the first time anyone had really mentioned illness apart from HIV and it brought it home a bit.    I ran with Jaylois and it was great fun again.

Lameck is in the middle

Lameck is in the middle

The days food was:

breakfast – dry roll (nice when fresh, a bit harder to chew after a couple of days)

lunch – nsima, fish (had it about 3 or 4 times) and a vegetable relish

dinner – dry roll and rice (the rice was served with sugar, I told myself it was rice pudding)

I would have been given a morning snack too, probably bread again but would have avoided an afternoon snack since I ran at about the time I would get it.  Carb-tastic as usual! Not ideal when I was doing so much less exercise than at home!

I also helped, well watched really, how to make groundnut oil today, which is basically peanut butter and it is delicious.  All that is in it is nuts and a little salt,  I could not believe how much moisture was in the nuts, nor how strong my host mother is.  She is basically doing manual labour all day every day!

Check out the muscles!

Check out the muscles!

My poor attempts, but I really wanted one of those pestle and mortars to bring home!

My poor attempts, but I really wanted one of those pestle and mortars to bring home!

I had a fabulous day that day but at the same time was very aware that time was running out on my stay in the village and was getting concerned already at the thought of leaving.

I am sure the St1 teacher will not mind me mentioning it, as she told me within about 5 mins of meeting her and she was secretary of the whole district’s association for it, but she was HIV positive.  I am pretty sure, although I did not ask, that Lameck was not from what she told me about how she contracted it.  She kept pretty well and went to Dedza every 3 months for drugs and was also given special sachets of gel type food with extra vitamins etc. If she did get a cold etc she would be off school for a few days to make sure she recovered well and she always had to make sure she got plenty of rest.  One of my few moments when I threatened to get upset was on my second night when she introduced me to a girl in the school who was also positive.  She had not been in school much lately as she was quite sick and she looked it too.  I found this hard to deal with and I did just kind of block all other thoughts of it from my mind as the chances were 1/3 to 1/2 of the children I was meeting at school had it.  There was also the numbers who would have been affected by parents having it etc.  When I mentioned this when I came home some people thought I was worried, or were worried for me, about catching it but it was not, as I know I would have to be doing something really pretty stupid to be at risk, it was more that I could not in my head cope with knowing these children, teaching them and playing with them and knowing that they might be sick and have a low chance of survival.  I am sure most of them would not know they had it and even if they did would not be getting drugs.  On my previous trip to Malawi and even more especially the year before in Cambodia I had been very upset a lot by homeless, or just very poor children and I did not want to be getting upset here while living in the village so just had to put it out of my head.  To put into context how upset I was in Cambodia, on my last afternoon there I just could not bear to leave the hotel room as I could not cope with having to see these children anymore and deal with trying not to cry and inevitably failing anyway and crying and getting upset in front of them and trying to hide it.  I did love it there and would love to go back.  I think I would cope better now, well I hope I would.  So I did quite well in Malawi this year and I am glad as it was one of the things I was quite worried about.  I had a couple of lump in the throat moments but that was mostly when people were giving me nice speeches etc, until I left that is!

Mme Gwengwe following my example of making big charts and doing one for her HIV+ group

Mme Gwengwe following my example of making big charts and doing one for her HIV+ group

Sorry, this has been a really long post but I wanted to get thoughts etc down that I was worried I would forget or that I had been unable to write in my diary at the time.  It has taken me about a week to write this one as it is hard now I am back at work.  And made more difficult when you go away to Cardiff all weekend to see Madonna in the millenium stadium.  She was amazing, worth every penny and hour standing waiting on her but there was a slight guilt feeling about how I can spend that if I wish while still writing up all of this about people for whom that is unimaginable!

Into the Groove

2nd week at school

11 08 2008

This is hard work but by the number of hits I am getting a lot of people seem to be reading it so it’s worth it!

Put out my punctuality sheets today and ironically there were only two teachers there at that point!  Assembly did not even start until 7.30 (when it is supposed to finish) and that was when the two others teachers arrived that were coming that day.  That meant three classes had no teacher that day.  The deputy headteacher was always there early and I thought he was super dedicated (he did live right beside the school though in one of the teachers houses) but today anyway, and not for the first time, the headteacher was late!  They divided the classes up between them but it does mean not very much gets done when not all of the teachers are there.  By the end of my time there I had at least got them to move two classes into the same classroom if not all of the teachers were there which helped a bit.  It was at least better than leaving a class with nobody.  Can you imagine doing that in Scotland?! 

punctuality sheets

punctuality sheets

I took all of the classes with the teachers today to do pe games as the only things I had really seen were football and netball.  Both the teachers and the pupils loved the games I showed them and I did different ones with each class and encouraged them to swap the ideas.  It was very tiring though  and took so long as you were having to explain the games to the teacher (easier said than done in some cases!) and then they would explain to the children and then you try them out and more often than not had to re-explain and re-explain as you realised flaws once they started playing it.  I could not believe they did not even know how to play tig!

I managed to get them stay back after school today and we agreed on and got ready for display their school rules.  This was one of the things on their school improvement plan and seemed a straightforward thing to get on with.  I tried to just be a facilitator and get them to decide together on the rules and they did this pretty well although I would say that again most input came from the deputy head.  They then took the longest time to translate the rules into Chichewa as we were putting them on display in Chichewa from St 1-4  and then in english from St5-7.  I did the english ones and they did a Chichewa one each and I was finished all of mine before they finished theirs which they were a bit astounded at!  This all took until 2pm and they said they were very tired when we finished!

school rules

school rules

I got out snakes and ladders at home in the afternoon, without anyone there to translate if I remember rightly and they got the hang of that quite quickly.  I also got some balloons out which they loved but it was about the only time they actually played with them.  Most of the time when I got them out they just deflated them pretty quickly so that they could keep them.

playing with balloons

playing with balloons

I did hill training while running today and could not believe how many joined me and how easy they found it!  Dinner was rice and sugar – I told myself it was rice pudding!

On Wednesday more teachers were there on time which was very encouraging!  I went round each class in the morning with the school rules and encouraged each teacher to go through them all and explain them well and then put them up in each class.  This took ages!

One of the other things in the school improvement plan was monitoring of teachers which I had been prepared for before coming out and so had brought some guidelines.  I had totally meant to bring my own monitoring sheets as well but somehow forgot them (it was total madness trying to get stuff to bring, pack etc and pack my own classroom up before leaving).  So I had prepared for the headteacher a set of guidelines and advice and a master form that could be used if he wished.  I know I should have done this in conjunction with him but it was so difficult to find time with him supposed to be in a class and my biggest  ‘bug bear’ was the teachers not being in class teaching and so I did not want to ask him to come out to discuss things.  It would have been a lot easier if he had been staying in the village but as he was  a good walk away it was hard to ask him to stay later.  He should have been in the other teachers house beside the school but the old headteacher was still there – there had been a bit of a situation which led to the new head being appointed!

So today I observed in St1, filled out the form and most importantly I felt made sure I gave the feedback right away to the St1 teacher and the head happened to be about so he heard how positive I was which I think was really important.  I basically had some stuff written for each part of the lesson and then had 2 stars and a wish for the positives and next steps.  I could have had far more than two stars though as the lesson was great, everything I saw her do was good and she was so pleased to get positive feedback as I do not think they are praised for their work very often.  In fact I would say I spent a lot of my time there ‘bigging up’ the St1 teacher and the deputy head as I felt they were working so hard.  The thing I said though that pleased her most was that she was doing a lot of similar things to the primary one teacher in my school as a lot of what she was doing was active and they are introducing group work and continous assessment.  She was just so chuffed with this.

St1 sitting in groups

St1 sitting in groups

I spent the rest of my morning re-doing the timetables to take into account the lateness of pupils (and teachers) and the problem of St7 not having a teacher.  English, maths and chichewa were all taught first thing in the morning and so if lessons started late these lessons would be shorter and the pupils who were late were these important lessons all of the time.  So I moved other subjects to first thing in the morning and those subjects to after first break, making sure they did not go too far on in the day when the pupils would be tired as this was the only thing the teachers were worried about.  I had done this after asking the teachers first and it could be seen as a waste of my time for me to be the one to reorganise the timetables (and spend many hours after school making new masters nicely on flip chart paper) but I know if I did not do it while I was there and make up the big masters then it would not have been done.

It was the next part that really took me the longest.  I really thought that for the most part it was a waste of time St7 being in school as they were hardly taught.  It was supposed to be that teachers left their classes with work and went and taught St7 a couple of subjects but this was just not happening and was hardly an ideal solution anyway.  I had discussed the idea of a composite class with the head teacher and he was agreeable so we had asked the deputy since he taught St6 and was so good.  He was apprehensive but agreeable to giving it a go and so I re-organised all of this.  I was pretty sure St7 would pretty much be taught the same as St6 but this was better, I think, than them not being taught at all especially since everything by this stage is supposed to be taught in English and I am sure they were not understanding a lot of it anyway.

I still wanted (was determined!) that the other teachers would be involved as well so the way I worked it was that the deputy would teach both classes till 11am, doing english, maths and chichewa, social subjects and agriculture.  When the infants went home at 11 and the juniors went home at 12 the other teachers would share between them expressive arts, life skills and other subjects which were left.  All of the teachers were agreeable to this but I would be interested to see if it is really put into practice next term.

these took me a long time, especially since I forgot to take tippex!

these took me a long time, especially since I forgot to take tippex!

Grace from LINK and Mr Balaka, the PEA for the zone came out to do a visit this afternoon.  I found it amazing how the children always heard the vehicle coming long before I did.  I chatted to Grace myself for a bit, she made sure this happened as they had realised I may not have been able to say if there was a problem last week since the teacher was always there.  As it is I was buzzing with excitement about how well I was dealing with things and how I felt I was finally getting somewhere with developments in the school.  At this point I felt I had wasted time in the first week but you had to find your feet and I did spend the Friday at another school (as had been requested of me). 

I then, on the spur of the moment, ended up going up to the headteacher’s village with him, the deputy head and Lameck, the boy I ran with.  I did not realise at the time that he had been specifically asked (probably told) to come with me so that he could accompany me back.  If I had known this I would not have gone as I felt bad at him having to do this, although he seemed fine with it.   Grace was no slower a driver than Wilford and as I was in the pick up truck, sitting on the floor of it at the back I came right up at one and then banged my bum hard back down – it was probably slower than banging my head! 

the view from my headteacher's village

the view from my headteacher's village

I spoke to my mum outside the head’s house for a long time as it was her birthday (I would regret that when I got home and saw my bill!) and during this time more and more children gathered as obviously I was such a novelty.  They just sat and stared at me the whole time I was on the phone but I just found it really funny.  I then of course had to go in and eat and then I went back outside and got the bubbles out which was good fun as it was the first time these kids had seen them.  I said a few times how for the smallest kids at the front it was always like being in mosh pit!

playing with bubbles

playing with bubbles

Back just before dark, in fact we had to rush the walk home!  I was shattered and yawned the whole way through my dinner again – which was rice and sugar again!  One thing I found quite hard was not only being fed by anyone I visited but also being sent away with food by people who were so poor.  I had a mountain of monkey nuts in my room by the last week which I did eventually manange to offload on the kids at school and was also given maize, potatoes and some other strange vegetables which at least I could give to my family to cook but they were being paid to feed me, these other people weren’t!

On Thursday I did a bit more work on the timetables to finish them off; this was only on scrap paper, I did all of the big masters in my own time.  I observed the ST4 volunteer teacher who translated a lot for me, doing english which I can’t lie about – in my diary I wrote it was a bit depressing!  He tried and he knew what he was doing in some ways but part of the problem was that the children’s english was not good enough (not their fault) for what they were doing and the teachers in general did not explain enough in Chichewa to explain what the english was.  To be fair they were only following the teacher’s guides so they were doing what they were told.  I did spend a lot of time explaining how it was okay to talk and explain things in Chichewa.  I also observed the HT and that was better, there were still the same problems but he dealt with it better.  Had a quick meeting with the staff to discuss what we had done so far and what they and I still wanted to do before I left.  Luckily the things I had in mind were what they wanted help in so we were sorted!

Went up to the other school again also today and helped them with their school rules as that was also on their school improvement plan and gave them some other ideas similar to what I had been doing at Gwengwe.  I found them really quiet though and it was hard to get going with them.  Good experience though of working with different types of staff.

I was really frustrated as I had just sorted out teachers for St7 when the St2 volunteer teacher left!  Someone from the School Management Committee came round when we got back from Fumba Primary to talk about paying for another and this proved to be a bit of a sticking point.  Managed at this point to get them to think about it and have a meeting with me on Sunday morning.

I did some work within the compound in the afternoon – everyone always thought it was really odd that I wanted to sit in the sun as they would automatically sit in the shade.  Since I was working at the same time I got out a Scottish colouring book I had brought and some coloured pencils.  I had originally thought Nowa and his friends would most use it but they had no idea what to do!  I demonstrated and they did have a bit of a go but it was not really active enough for them and then it ended up being Jaylois and another teenage girl who sat for hours and did it.  He was really engrossed.

the little ones colouring!

the little ones colouring!


the big ones colouring!

the big ones colouring!

Wilford from LINK and Mr Balaka came late in the afternoon with the second batch of money for the family and we got fed the only thing I really did not like while there.  It was basically hot water and maize flour and I really found that quite hard to stomach!

Usual bubbles and snap after they left until bathing time and dinner.  I got my favourite thing for dinner which was potatoes cooked with tomatoes and red onion!

My host mother cooking the potato dish

My host mother cooking the potato dish

Sorry this is a really long one, I think it shows I was getting there with doing stuff in the school but it means I will leave Friday for next time!

First weekend

9 08 2008

This was the part I was worried about before I left as I thought that the weekends might be very long if the family did not speak english and especially this first weekend as the Monday was a national holiday too. As it turns out I had a brilliant time – as I did the whole time – and was kept very busy!

Myself, the male volunteer teacher in St4, who basically was my translator and companion most of the time, my host mother and the deputy head teacher’s wife walked to Mayani which was the nearest town and was described as a trading centre.  I had passed through it in the land rover on my way to the village and it was quite quiet during the week.  Not so at the weekend!

ground maize

ground maize

It took us an hour and a half to walk and I had been told that it was about 10km to get there and I guess that is about right because despite a lot of uphill I walked at my usual very fast pace and knackered everyone I was with.  They could not believe the pace I was going at and although I did try to slow down I am not very good at that!  It did not seem like it took an hour and a half as there was so much to see and obviously there were a lot of people looking at me as we went through tiny villages!

bikes could carry a lot!

bikes could carry a lot!

I had taken a wind up mobile phone charger with me but it was useless so I needed to recharge my phones (I had my samsung with my UK simcard and my old motorola with a Malawi simcard).  Mr Kaunda (the teacher)  took me to a barber’s stall when we got there and we put them both in.  I was a bit apprehensive about putting both in but of course it was fine and I now wish I had put in my video camera as well as that ran out well before the end of my time in the village!  They were charging for a couple of hours first and it only cost about 20p!

While there I tried to buy newspapers so that I could then pass them round the village but even by the time we left at about 1pm they had not arrived from Dedza yet!  The whole place was heaving and there was quite a large market which we went into and very surreally I was helping Mr Kaunda pick out new shirts and shoes!  That was one of those ‘I can’t believe I am actually here and doing this’ moments – in a good way!

in the market

in the market

We spent a lot of time just hanging around, partly as it is what they do, we were waiting on my host mother and we were waiting on my phones.  I found this very strange as I am so not used to sitting and doing nothing!  It was no bad thing though as there was loads to watch and it will have done me good to have chill out time!  We met Lameck, the boy I ran with lots, and that was good as he was such a nice person to spend time with and he became a good friend.  He also took me to see the secondary school in Mayani which was quite different to the primary schools but then you have to pay for secondary school education.

Mayani day secondary school

Mayani day secondary school


my host mother and the deputy head's wife carrying their shopping home

my host mother and the deputy head's wife carrying their shopping home

My host mother and her daughter took me to wash my clothes in the river in the afternoon.  Nowa and his pals (they were inseperable) came with us and they had a great time as they just stripped off and played in the water.  I gave the women (and the various other teenagers there also washing clothes) a right laugh as they thought I was so bad at washing the clothes.  No-one was there to translate and I thought I was doing okay but they obviously didn’t and basically rewashed everything I had tried to wash!  I did get a bit worried about seeing my techinical running kit being bashed off a stone!

My host mother's daughter, Mercy, re-washing my clothes

My host mother's daughter, Mercy, re-washing my clothes

I then had the bubbles out again and ran again – various boys from the football team were waiting on me and loads of us ended up running around what were basically peoples gardens I thought!  There was a lot of running around on long grass which was hard, hard work.  I always felt like a bit of a fraud running as I was huffing and puffing with the altitude and they must have thought I was very unfit!

I got fish for dinner tonight for the first time, it was tasty but very bony and of course had the heads and tails on it!

On the Sunday I knew I would be going to church but could not get a time sorted – I was never very good at not being ruled by my watch!  I got snap out for the first time and after bubbles this was the most successful thing that I took.  I didn’t quite get bored of it by the time I left as it was just so nice to play with them but lets say I don’t feel the need to ever play it again ( until I go again next year of course!)

playing snap

playing snap

I went to do some work at school since it did not appear church was starting anytime soon and of course I was followed by Nowa and some of his pals.  They just contentedly sat and watched me and practised saying my name and tried to get me to learn their names.  I was always called Caro or Carol as there was no way they could manage Caroline.  After a while they left and then some of the older ones from the football team came and did the exact same thing!

Church eventually started at 11am and lasted 2 hours 20 mins! Actually despite it all being in Chichewa it did not seem as if it lasted that long, probably as it was broken up with so much singing.  The only thing was sitting on a wooden seat for that long!  I had to get up and speak and it was translated for me, you are expected to go on for quite a while but there was a limit to what I could think of to say! 

singing in church

singing in church

I went up to visit people in another village in the afternoon and my headteacher met us there.  They were very nice and loads of kids came out to play with the bubbles I had brought.  I got very attached to one boy of about 2 who was right beside me all the time, let me spin him around etc and then when we were leaving he walked me up the road hand in hand.  I was crying with laughter several times today and that happened to me all the time while staying in the village – it was great!

my little friend

my little friend

On Monday morning, it being a holiday, Mr Kaunda and Mme Gwengwe took me up a nearby hill to see the views of the village and have a picnic.  Again this was me being made to sit and do nothing which was probably a good thing for me!  The picnic consisted of potatoes and the scones with honey that someone in the village had made and then kind-of-dried maize on the cob which I can’t say I found that appetising!

myself and Mme Gwengwe

myself and Mme Gwengwe

I worked in the school for four hours in the afternoon.  As a way to try and get the learners to come on time I was preparing flip chart sheets for each class with everyones names on them and dates for them to tick if they arrived before assembly started.  I would then get the parachute that I had brought out at the end of the week for all of the pupils that came on time all week.  I did try to keep saying to the teachers that they had to come on time as well to be role models and since there was no point in the pupils coming on time if the teachers were not there.


punctuality sheets

punctuality sheets

One of the St7 boys came in and watched me for a bit and then ended up helping me all afternoon without much conversation as english was limited!  He was lovely and we ended up hanging out loads as he was keen to help me, learn loads and try out his english as time went on.  By the end of my time there he was telling me he wanted to come back to Scotland with me!  I found it so refreshing that children, particularly boys, could be friendly, polite, helpful and great fun to hang out with as it was such a difference to the attitudes of pupils I was used to in Scotland.  Also bizarre that all of these boys would be playing football one minute and in church practising with the choir the next.

Patrick, the kid who helped me loads.  (He was wearing a girls jacket while doing scottish dancing for some reason!)

Patrick, the kid who helped me loads. (He was wearing a girls jacket while doing scottish dancing for some reason!)

Running, bubbles and snap again to finish off the day, I was getting into quite a routine!