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