MLOL Heart

Shannon Fairbairn, PE Teacher, Smithycroft Secondary

Feb 20,2024 MLOL Blogs

Training day 3

The drive to Nankumba TDC was fascinating, passing through the local markets which seemed to go for miles and displayed such a vibrant hub of community. Before we started training this morning we were taken for a visit to 

Mfande school in rural Blantyre, right in the heart of a village and only reached by foot. Walking through the village my eyes were truly open to the levels of deprivation some of the learners and their families are living in and it became very apparent the number of learners in rural areas who were not lucky enough to be receiving an education or attending school. It was my first experience of seeing an outdoor classroom as they did not have enough buildings on the grounds to host the increasing school role. My admiration for the teachers here in Malawi is second to none, countless barriers in their way yet their passion and commitment to their profession and their learners never fails.

We were lucky enough to be welcomed into one of the lessons and I was in total awe of the teacher at the front of the room! Who knew someone could make a standard 7 lesson about the diseases of the digestive system sound so interesting! Myself and Morgan both commented on his inspiring manner with the learners and his enthusiasm and passion shone through in every interaction. When I fed this back to the head teacher he informed us that he was in fact a student teacher on his practical placement- which just made the observation all the more impressive. He encapsulated everything a teacher should be, I would loved to have been a learner in his classroom. 

Engagement was high within the participants and their engagement levels were admiral despite it being a public holiday for Ash Wednesday- so we appreciated their time spent with us today all the more. Collaboration among the participants allowed them to not only discuss implementing the good lesson cycle but support each other with solutions for challenges they found. Allowing this time for professional collaboration and learning from each other is something our participants have valued and commented positively on throughout the evaluations. 

With training over, we packed up and stopped off at the markets to pick up a local delicacy - fresh sugar cane, for a little energy boost after our delivery. 

Training Day 4 & 5 

Limbe TDC and then a return to Ndirande TDC to finish off our week. The level of participation our Malawian colleagues gave us during our sessions is so admirable and has created the perfect ethos and learning environment throughout the week. Involving them in the strategies we are providing as learners alongside facilitating discussion surrounding barriers & adaptability of said strategies - allowed for deeper understanding and an opportunity to visualise how thy can employ them in their own classroom settings.

There were some very powerful questions directed at the PEAs ( Primary Education Advisor’s) from the participants asking if they were to observe the strategies we are delivering in our training within their lessons would they be accepted as valid methods of marking and assessment. The sound of the room when the PEA supported all of our methods and encouraged them to adopt these strategies within their classrooms was powerful - and seemed like the lightbulb moment for so many. Having Education advisors attending and participating in the training was hugely beneficial in showing their support, valuing our content and empowering their staff to adopt these strategies to make positive change for the learners. 

Reflecting on the Change 

As the week draws to a close I feel a comparison to my first visit is imperative in noticing the positive changes and impact the Malawi Leaders of Learning project is having on the Education in Blantyre. 

Classroom visits allowed me to view the training in practice, with teachers involving learners more actively in their own learning experiences- through questioning approaches and various active learning strategies.  Witnessing the incredible learning experiences offered within the classrooms highlighted the need for a shift in what our Malawian colleagues are seeking from our delivery. 

Keeping in line with the nature of our training content around involving the learner and adapting strategies to suit the needs of learners- we to as facilitators had to adapt the training based on the needs & wants of the participants. On my first visit the participants were very liner on what knowledge they wanted to gain from the delivery however, this time the participants had a want for more professional collaboration with their Malawian colleagues. This proved hugely successful as it allowed us to facilitate group decisions on the barriers faced in Education and provide time for solutions to be shared between colleagues relative to their personal school contexts. 

Through facilitating these discussions it became apparent that despite large class sizes being a continual challenge to overcome, new areas of challenge within the learning context were being mentioned within respect to inclusion, attendance and behaviour management- which were not noted in my previous visit. Further highlighting that progress has been made within teaching and learning and the input from MLOL is having positive impact on the experiences of the learners, but perhaps a shift in direction is required within our delivery to cater for the evolving needs from the teachers. 

Support from education advisors was crucial and as mentioned in the last blog post was such a powerful moment when the participants heard first hand that they would be fully supported in adopting the strategies we are providing. This was a huge take away moment for the participants and ourselves as facilitators as it gave so much value to the project and allowed us to witness first hand the overwhelming response received when teachers are empowered to create change by being provided with the tools and flexibility to adapt their practice.

Until next time….. 

Miss Fairbairn

MLOL Heart
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I feel a comparison to my first visit is imperative in noticing the positive changes and impact the MLOL project is having on the Education.
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