A day in the life of Grace Kachuma

This headteacher in Malawi faces the mind-boggling task of teaching more than 5,000 pupils with only 41 staff. But she relishes the opportunity to help break the cycle of poverty

I am the headteacher of Chitsime Primary School in the city of Blantyre, Malawi. We have 5,498 learners, 41 teachers but only 16 classrooms, so the school day takes place in two shifts.

My day begins at 5am. I heat the water for my bath as my husband makes our breakfast. I leave home at 6am to walk the 3km to school; when I reach my office at 6.30am I wipe the sweat from my face and the dust from my feet.

I start by checking that everything in the office is in order. Then I check the outside premises, the classrooms, the toilets and the kitchen, making sure that the volunteers have enough water to prepare the porridge - we always have problems with water flow. Children often come to school without having eaten breakfast so they depend on the porridge we provide.

The teachers arrive at 7am and assembly starts at 7.15am. Owing to limited space, the morning classes attend assembly in three groups, so I rotate between them. During assembly I encourage learners to work hard to improve their standard of living.

Most of the parents are illiterate, so I advise the students to read books to increase their English vocabulary and share that knowledge with their parents. We were lucky to receive sponsorship from Malawi Leaders of Learning for our school library; children now frequently borrow books and use them to teach members of their extended family to read.

After assembly the learners walk to their classrooms. Even though we have limited exercise books and pencils and most of them have to sit on the floor, the children like school and work hard. This is evident in the happiness on their faces.

When classes have settled, and if I don't have to teach, I go back to my office to do other duties such as attending to parents, signing documents and writing reports.

At 10.30am I attend the late-morning assembly - the infants finish at the same time. It might seem as if the discipline of the school is lost during this time, because one big group of students is going out and another one is coming in. But I am busy controlling the movement of these learners.

The morning shift finishes at 1.15pm and the afternoon shift finishes at 4.45pm. I close the office at 5pm and walk home.

I enjoy being a headteacher: I meet parents and children of different characters and I learn from them. But I am always busy, sometimes confused and once in a while I even shed tears because of disappointment. Sometimes I am called to work during the weekend or holidays with no extra payment - this is tiresome. But it is good that I am employed and get a salary at the end of the month.

Most importantly, it feels good to know that my efforts could change lives for the better and free some of the learners from the cycle of poverty that their families are trapped in.

Your day

Do you want to tell the world's teachers about your working day, the unique circumstances in which you teach or the brilliance of your class? If so, email chloe.darracott-cankovic@tesglobal.com

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