Round Five: Chitsime Primary
A short journey through Ndirande this morning as we headed to Chitsime Primary. The drive through the trading centre is always an eye opener with all sorts available from chips (at 7.30am) to car parts. I once saw part of an aeroplane propellor there! The urban poverty was keen with a different ‘feel’ from CI, a kilometre away.
Once again, we arrived to find the gates locked, the guard absent and two wee ones who had turned up late, waiting outside and missing their porridge. Something I spoke to the HT about immediately. Children can’t be learning if they are not able to get in to school!
It was lovely to meet Estery and her team, particularly the vivacious Catherine, a grandmother who is treasurer of the schools Mother Group and whose contribution in supporting girls in school is second to none. Of an indeterminate age, she ran the length of the school shouting:” Sharoneeeeeee! I made this dress to wear on your visit!”
The school have had a bumpy self-evaluation since the retiral of the previous HT. Today we had some challenging conversation about ensuring high quality teaching and learning, record keeping and positive outcomes for learners. The school are always ready to listen and have shown they do take action after the visit, but with challenging conditions, they are struggling to sustain improvements. Having both Primary Education Advisors at the discussion allowed us to plan ongoing support in these important areas.
One outstanding feature of this school is the work of the Mother Group. Stories were shared of the support they are giving to two young, expectant mothers. Regular visits to their home with activities, crafts and counsel to keep them motivated in their learning.
Their other work, using the MLOL sewing machine was also brilliant. Ten mothers are trained to use the machine and see uniforms for orphans or those who have none. They led the charge in producing hand made sanitary wear for older girls and amazed me by saying they had extended this so girls now came and were shown how to sew their own sanitary pads. This is highly effective practice and inspired me.
After a feast of samosas, mango juice and cake, some posing took place as photos were taken and 25 minutes of formal thank yous were shared before we left!
On leaving the school in the minibus and turning into the reading post area, I saw an old, gnarled but very twinkly face across the road. It was Mr Banda! A previous chair of the PTA at Chitsime and probably more than 80 years old, he always arrived wearing a tartan tie and tartan blazer (where on earth he got them I do not know) to celebrate Scotland. He was a great supporter of the school and a true gent. As I had the minibus do a sudden stop and lept from it, he recognised who I was, pointed and shouted:” It is you. It is Sharon!” Imagine travelling all this way and finding a familiar face in the crowds. Local secondary school boys cheered and whooped as we embraced. I confess to one wee emotional tear!
Where time allows, we are trying to squeeze in short photo visits at the schools our MLOL team will work in during Sept/Oct. Today we swept in and out of Blantyre Girls School and met Ruthi the inimitable HT - loved her! She will travel to Glasgow this year and will fill it with her personality. The school is quite simply stunning. Great local business partners are sponsoring everything from laundry facilities to ten new flushing toilets for the girls (to supplement the 16 they already have)
The day ended with a short briefing meeting with Evelyn the Divisional Education Manager, securing a meeting for Terry Strain when he comes in a fortnight and discussing the MLOL schools going forward - very helpful!