The sun shone bright today and reflected everyone’s mood as we set off this morning from Kabula Lodge.
Maureen and Sharon were off to Limbe Teacher Development Centre to host and test out the new look senior management training for Headteachers and PEAs (Primary Education Advisers).
Laura and I were off to visit three of the schools that the MLOLs 2018 had worked in – Kapeni Demonstration School, Chisawani Primary and Blantyre School for Girls.
Three very different schools and three very different experiences when we visited with everyone delighted to welcome us to their schools and catch up.
But first a very emotional reunion awaited Laura at Kapeni.
Having taught there in October with Laura from Hillington PS in Glasgow – Laura was speechless when 6-year-old Florence from Standard 1 flew into her arms in the playground.
This was a special wee girl that Laura had bonded with and everyone was delighted…and emotional and privileged…to witness the grand reunion!
And all the more amazing as this is a school with more than 8,500 learners – wee Florence had been told Laura was visiting and had sought us out…then stayed by our side the whole time.
Two more treats greeted us at Kapeni – the wonderful ASL teachers and their contented, happy learners and the Unlocking Talent classroom – a classroom stocked with iPads and apps and silent children with headphones working away on their maths apps. Unlocking Talent is a charity that provides state of the art technology in one classroom – it’s at Kapeni because this is a demonstration school linked to Blantyre Teacher Training College.
Two experiences that don’t always go hand and hand during a visit to a Malawian school.
The two Laura’s had transformed the ASL classroom during their stay – along with the very generous gift of a sewing machine.
The sewing machine was to be used to teach life skills to one of the learners to enable her to find employment once she finishes school but we also learnt today that the mothers’ group is making sanitary products for the female learners too.
Period poverty very much in action!
But you never cease to be amazed at the resilience of Malawians – or the power of education as we were introduced to another learner who suffers from cerebral malaria and who’s carried to and from school by his big brother.
Walking into the Unlocking Talent classroom you wouldn’t be amiss to assume you’ve been transported back to a Glasgow classroom…the children are all working away silently on their own iPads.
Polar opposites to the other, overcrowded, dark and often visually disturbing classrooms you come to expect.
This experience is amazing and we can only hope this charity is able to replicate in other Malawian schools…the children are transformed by the digital world they are treated to part of the day as the teachers look on proudly.
We know this will however be the exception rather than the rule for a long time…and reflect on the fact that every child from P6 in Glasgow will be given their own iPad over the next couple of years.
Next stop was Chisawani – a primary school of just over 1,500 learners and the former primary school of HT Obek who visited Glasgow as part of the Malawian delegation last year.
Although we were witness to some impressive teaching practices – with a number of very engaging student teachers – we were left feeling very disappointed with the library.
Classes are obviously not making use of the books and we will be discussing that with Foster, the senior inspector.
Hopefully Laura’s library training this week for schools will reinvigorate teachers’ passion for reading and make a difference to this library.
What greeted us next at Blantyre Girls School (BGS) made us all smile.
HT Ruth – a wee bundle of pure enthusiasm - was the pick up we needed and she proudly showed us round her beautiful school.
Ruth had also been to Glasgow and was forever recounted stories and good practice she’s brought back to BGS.
More than 50 learners a day borrow books – in abundance in the library in both English and Chichewa – taking them home to read for pleasure and share with their families.
Ruth is also in the middle of her senior leader’s training project to reduce the number of her learners repeating Standard 5 – she’s more than confident that by being part of MLOL means that more of her girls will be going straight on to Standard 6.
We don’t doubt her.
As we reluctantly left, Laura was delighted to see the school sport leaders delivering different groups of activity sessions and can’t wait to show the videos to Katy and Jenny from the MLOL 2018 group.
Full of stories…and hundreds of photos and videos later…we joined Sharon and Maureen to see how the training session had gone.
They are testing out new resources and an updated presentations and it certainly looked as everyone who attended to day found the training engaging and enlightening – despite high temperatures in the classroom that could sap the energy of any Malawian.
Sharon had included a couple of examples from former MLOL senior leadership participants – including Mpata HT Bullah – another excellent practitioner we wish we could emulate!
The results from his school are amazing – and he believes the impact on his learners is due to MLOL and included video interviews with a learner and a parent as part of his presentation. In 2015/16, the average test pass rate was 42% in 2017/18 it was an amazing 80% - he’s hoping for even better this year!
Witnessing this is all that we need to reaffirm that MLOL is continuing to make a difference and just makes as all more determined to find ways to sustain the project and our resolve to find the funds to keep going.