We are all home safely now – recovering from the long journey home. Our wee WhatsApp group is still buzzing as we remind each other to keep taking the malaria tablets and as we share reflections on our experience.
After our three planes and the sprint through Heathrow airport, we were delighted to join the girls of Stella Maris Secondary School at their morning mass. The girls singing is amazing and you couldn’t resist joining in even if it was in Chichewa. A wonderful start for those coming to Malawi for the first time.
However, we were there to work and the rest of Sunday was spent discussing the programme with the District Education Managers, Paul and Anita, and preparing our training. Our aim is to make it as interactive and relevant as possible with no technology and only a few handouts.
Marie and I led the headteacher training. Across five days, we worked with nearly 160 heads or deputes in Blantyre Urban and Rural districts. We focused on four of the Malawian National Education Standards – the Malawian equivalent of HGIOS.
The headteachers participated really well. They shared practice and we did role play where they rehearsed how they would ask a teacher to show case their practice and also how they would offer support to a teacher who was experiencing difficulties.
Of course, everyone’s favourite part was Marie leading us all in song with lots and lots of actions! In fact, it was so popular we had to do it again at the end of every session.
The evaluations were very positive and almost all wanted more training. For some headteachers this was the only professional learning they had had for years. Out in the rural districts, the headteachers struggle to get teachers due to the remoteness of the villages and often have to take classes. Some have started classes on a Saturday to spread the load and help get the older children ready for their exams in May. These exams determine whether they will get to secondary school or not so they are really important.
In Blantyre Urban, the increasing population in the townships is putting pressure on the schools. They have had to formally introduce ‘double shifts’ into many schools. This is where one half of the school comes in the morning and the other half come in the afternoon. They have always had this in Malawi but it had been only in a few schools.
All too soon it was Saturday and we were leaving the Warm Heart of Africa again. It is a very intense week – hard but exceptionally rewarding work. We will continue to reflect on what works and in two weeks we are meeting with some of the September 2023 team to discuss how we will change the training to better meet the needs of the Malawian schools