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

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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!





In the beginning…..

6 08 2008

I have put this off and put it off but I am going to have to start writing up some of my activities from my experience.  I am just going to start at the beginning and write up bits at a time – hopefully I will finish before the holidays finish!

As was stated in my blog earlier I pretty much slept the whole way there which is very unusual for me anywhere, never mind on a plane but end-of-term-itis it certainly was and it is just as well as I was rather worried when I got on the Ethiopian Airways plane and realised there were no individual t.v’s; they are usually what gets me through a flight!  Not that I know what I was expecting but I was also a bit disapointed that the shopping in Addis Ababa airport was nothing like J’burg where I really went to town last year on buying books and jewellery.  None of us had also realised how long it would take to do anything with 16 of us and I had no chance to buy books in Heathrow as we ended up with not much time to transfer.  That was worrying as I usually read a lot and I had not brought many with the express intention of buying books at Heathrow to save on weight in Glasgow.  There was a lot of book swapping going on later on in July!

We were met by several of the LINK staff in Lilongwe on the Saturday and taken into the capital for lunch and to buy some supplies in the supermarket.  We were advised we might want to buy some treats to keep for ourselves in our village but I was utterly determined I was not going to put on weight while away and only bought a packet of low fat crackers as a treat.  It was also suggested though that as we would probably be given dry bread we might want a spread of some sort.  So oddly enough and as a huge treat for me, I found and bought in a Malawian supermarket MARMITE! 

I only ate the crackers latterly in the village so that I did not have to take them back to Dedza and only got out the marmite (in secret) on my second last day in the village when I had had enough of dry bread (most of the time I felt it was fine plain).

We then transferred to Dedza where we would have 2 nights at Panjira Lodge which was fine but very basic.  We had a welcome meeting, dinner and then were all in bed very early!  Robert and I ran on Sunday morning but that is all in my running blog.

We were allowed some time on the Sunday morning to go and visit the town and were taken round by one of the LINK staff.  We visited the court (our hotel was also right beside the prison), police station, education office, stadium and market.  We all bought chitenji’s in the market which are pieces of material that women use over their clothes most of the time.  I never got the hang of tucking mine in correctly despite numerous attempts by my host mother to show me so ended up tying it all the time!

The courthouse in Dedza

The courthouse in Dedza

Our work started that afternoon with orientation and meetings.  This amusingly included a demonstration of how to use a pit latrine by Ed the programme manager!  I wish I had thought to film it!

I was getting pretty worried about going out to the village by this stage as I was panicking that I would not be able to cope with pit latrines, the family possibly not speaking english, rats and also I was really worried I would get upset a lot with the standard of living for the children in the village.  I really did wonder how I had possibly thought I could do this!

On Monday morning (30th June) we had a welcome ceremony at the hotel and then after lunch we were being transferred to our villages.  There were various important people there that gave speeches but it was amusing (and bemusing) to see several people there to listen read the newspapers or send messages on their phones or even talk on their phones during the speeches!  There were 5 of us going to one zone, the most remote zone, and we met our PEA (Primary Education Advisor) for the zone, Mr Balaka.  He seemed very enthusiastic although I got a bit worried when he asked me to not only work in my school but also do some work in another school nearby (ish!).

My zone - Kim, Clare, Robert, Mr Balaka, myself and Jill

My zone - Kim, Clare, Robert, Mr Balaka, myself and Jill

I was transferred in the land rover with 6 others and our bags were taken in a separate vehicle where the bags were out in the open.  When I got my bags at my village I realised my mistake in taking a brand new rucksack and my nice London Marathon sports bag as my luggage.  Dirt tracks for several hours have meant these bags will never be the same again!

Just about time to go!

Just about time to go!

I spent 4 hours in the land rover as I was dropped off last and spent most of that sitting right in the back.  Worryingly the back door would not open but did not seem to be shut properly either so I spent a lot of time worrying it would fly open and I would end up flying out of the door, and with the speed Wilford was driving at, that would have been nasty.  I ended up thinking I was going to have concussion on my first night in the village as I was flown up out of my seat at one point, banging my head on the roof!

I got strangely attached to the land rover!

I got strangely attached to the land rover!

It was quite emotional dropping everyone else off as the people who were waiting out to meet them were so excited and welcoming.  I got dropped off at 5.30pm by which point it was nearly dark and I think my village had given up on me coming!





It’s me this time!

20 07 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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





Glow and Malawi working together

3 06 2008

Yesterday I made the other teachers from the Sharing Success and Making Connections conference that had expressed an interest in my Malawi glow group members of it and used it with my class.  A few weeks on from the conference I know but as I have said on here before school has been incredibly busy and I was adamant I wanted the glow group finished to how I wanted it before I opened it up.  This I gave up on as I realised that is not important and it is not long until I go!  So the only thing I have not put on it yet that I specifically wanted on it are the surveys that I had planned – well the point is they are not really planned, I just know I want them on there!

So I asked my class to go on yesterday and start answering questions I had set on the discussion pages about what games and ideas I could take out to Malawi for maths, language, P.E, playground games etc.  This was after I had read them out the letter from my family etc which certainly sparked their interest and made them keen off their own back to raise money for the school and for gifts, ie a football particularly, for the four year old boy that will be in the house.

They were really only interested in writing about their pe and playground games so still looking for active learning/needing no resources games for maths and language, hopefully I might get some of these as other schools get involved.

Tomorrow I am going to spend time with p.4-7 showing them glow and hopefully getting them interested in it, as well as explaining a bit more about Malawi.  Then I want to make sure they all have their passwords changed and have been on before the summer.  One problem I have at the moment with staff passwords is that apart from myself we only have another 2 permanent class teachers in school at present so I don’t have the passwords for the other teachers.  Most children are going to end up with their passwords before the children do!

Today I bought myself from Amazon a wind up mobile phone and ipod charger, a wind up torch, a wind up radio and a lot of batteries!  I am going to take my ipod to the village (and keep it on me!) and use it with small speakers to play scottish music on as requested.  I had better brush up on my scottish country dancing to teach it to the village!  I will give the radio as a gift to the family since they mentioned that.  I suppose then I only need the batteries for my camera but I am sure I will be using that a lot.  I will be taking my video camera too but will just need to use that sparingly as it will be three weeks before I can charge anything with electricity.  I will be taking a head torch but thought I had better get a wind up one too.  I was really surprised at how cheap all of these things were but then even more surprised that the packaging came to more than the actual cost of the items.  Still bought them though as I have no time to get to the shops and search things out!  I also bought a load of tablet and shortbread!  I am planning on buying a parachute as a gift for the school, they are not exactly cheap but not as expensive as I thought they might be.  I might pack it in my hand luggage – I am not feeling very confident about the flights!





Not long now

1 06 2008

I have just got home from Edinburgh where I have been at the second training weekend for the global teachers programme.  It is now only 3 weeks on Friday (that is quite scary sounding!) until we go and this weekend has really made it seem real!  It was also very exciting, for most of us this was probably due to the fact we got given a profile about our school and a letter/profile about our host family.  The other great thing was meeting last years GT’s and getting to ask them all of our questions.

I think we are getting our profiles emailed to us so if we do I will post them on here.  My school is called Gwengwe Primary School and has 381 pupils and 5 teachers which includes the HT and DHT and is split to 3 males and 2 females.  Of this number two of these are volunteer teachers so are untrained and there can be difficulties paying them.  The pupil to teacher ratio is 76:1 which is good for Malawi.  There seems to be good support from the community and the school is in fairly good condition – there are desks in every classroom and pupil: textbook ratio is supposedly 1:1 which would be extremely unusual.  We were warned not take all of the information as correct!

I will be living with Mrs Dalikeni Chiziya and her four year old son.  There was no mention of a father but this does not mean there is not one about apparently – he might just not have been there the day the profiles were made up.  They rely on farming and the house is located only 50m from the school with a borehole for water 100m away.  The house has two bedrooms and I will have one of them.  In the letter it said they liked chatting to friends in their spare time and listening to the radio; although they do not actually have one!  The mother is hoping I will take out ‘Scottish music on a cassette that we can listen to’ so I guess I need to be looking for portable radios and cd players preferably with some wind up charger!

The village has a small shop to buy soft drinks, matches, biscuits etc and there is a tea room!  It is supposedly 50km from Dedza and 10km from Mayani trading centre which has shops and transport links and a health centre and probably a market.  I am not that close to other global teachers although near a main road so it might not be difficult to meet up.

We got all of this information on Friday night and spent the rest of the night talking about that and locating our village on a map of the district. 


               Where we are all going

On Saturday we got information about education in the Dedza region specifically, a session on strategies for working in schools, a Chichewa language session, advice on running our INSET’s in the TDC’s (Teacher Development Centres) and a display from last year’s GT’s as well as talks from Kay Livingstone from LTS and Elizabeth Williamson from the Scottish Government.  When we do the INSET’s I will be taking (with a couple of other GT’s) full day sessions on Leadership and Management, Numeracy and Literacy and PE so I was quite happy that I got what I had expressed most interest in.

Today was really about living and coping dilemas both with our host families and in the schools and there were some difficult issues that we had to discuss, all of which had happened to former GT’s.  These included:

  • LCD has told your host family that you would prefer not to eat meat yet you can tell they have spent a lot of their allowance on buying meat for special meals.  They say it is a sign of respect and honouring you as a guest.  How do you respond?

          Being vegetarian I got a bit worried about this one!

  • A local trader becomes very insistent that you help him get work in the UK.  You pass his stall every day on the way home.  Tactics and strategies?
  • Certain cultural customs disturb you, such as children, particularly girls, kneeling when speaking to male teachers.  You do not want them to do this when speaking to you.  What is the best course of action?
  • After three weeks of all your efforts, the young teacher to whom you are giving the most support is still allowing corporal punishment.  Although she is not doing it herself, she is allowing a senior pupil to walk around swishing a stick.  The Head Teacher is not too concerned.  What would you do?

The last one there was quite interesting as my group were discussing this one and we thought you would have to leave it as you had tried, it is a custom and the Head Teacher was not concerned.  It is not supposed to be allowed though.  We had with us this weekend a Malawian who works for LINK in Dedza and he discussed this with us and said that actually we could take it further, either to the School Management Committee or to the head of the zone.  During the whole weekend it was really useful to have Wilford there as he could answer so much for us.

We also had an input on glow today and out of this years and last years GT’s it was interesting to see how few had any involvement with Glow so far; that is about 30 teachers across a number of authorities.  I guess I have become so involved with it that I have not realised how many councils/people still have to come onboard.  I ended up showing a couple of my glow groups as they were to do with Malawi and I think that one of my outcomes for LINK is going to be about using glow with past and present global teachers to share resources etc.

I would say there are three things I now have left to do:

  •  buy things like wind up chargers, batteries, gifts etc
  • photocopy/collect AIFL things etc and get the kids to make stuff
  • pack! – We only have a 20kg allowance so this could be tricky!

And get something stronger for the plane – we have five flights on the way home, although I was told by someone from last year that we do not get off the plane every time, but it is Malawi – Zambia – Ethiopia Rome – London – Glasgow.  I will have had my fill of flying after that, unfortunate that it is only 10 weeks after that I will be flying to Chicago!

Also really worried now as several of last years GT’s said they put on weight; no wonder after they also then told me all of the stodgy, carbohydrate type food that we would be eating.  I had already thought of starting a running club at my school as my excuse for going running and not appearing like a totally crazy white woman but I may have to do it 2 or 3 times a day!


             Chichewa language session