Five-week trip to Malawi is set to have a lifelong impact

12th October 2012 at 01:00
Glasgow's Malawi Leaders of Learning programme is a hit

Ten education staff, who made up the first team to take part in Glasgow's Malawi Leaders of Learning programme, say their five-week visit to the "warm heart of Africa" this summer has been "life-changing".

An evaluation of their work with three primaries and one secondary in Malawi from June to July (see below) describes the impact on the teachers and pupils there - such as lifting the marking burden on teachers by teaching pupils how to peer-assess.

The report, published this month by Glasgow City Council's executive director of education and instigator of MLOL, Maureen McKenna, also illustrates some of the teething problems experienced by the first cohort.

"Not all of the staff at the Malawian schools understood the purpose of the visit. They assumed that when the teachers came, they would not be involved in teaching and some left.

"There was also an assumption that the teachers should have brought resources with them and a disappointment when they discovered that the only resource brought was the teachers' own skills and abilities," says Mrs McKenna.

The visit coincided with the exam timetable in Malawi.

"Instead of taking this as an opportunity to engage in professional dialogue, some wanted to stop work," says the report. Next year's trip will be reduced from five to four weeks and will build in more time at the teacher training centre.

But alongside the challenges there were clear successes, with the Glasgow team "reassessing their own experiences in light of working alongside some of the poorest people of the world".

One teacher reports: "Relationships developed with teachers and pupils in Malawi - to an extent that I had not expected." They enjoyed writing for pleasure to tell a story and give the pupils a "voice", to let them see that their own stories (personal and imaginative) were valid and interesting.

Another of the MLOL team writes: "It is a sharp lesson when you plan an activity . which requires pupils to draw scale diagrams, you have made sure you have the school's only blackboard ruler, but only two of the 54 pupils have rulers."

A senior manager from each of the four Malawian schools is coming to Glasgow this month, providing a further chance to discuss how to improve joint working.

Who's involved

Schools in Malawi Leaders of Learning:

- Nyambadwe Primary: 4,000 pupils, 19 classrooms and 24 teachers

- Chitsime Primary: 5,300 pupils, 16 classrooms and 45 teachers

- Namwiyo Primary: 800 pupils, two classrooms, 18 trained teachers and one assistant

- Blantyre Secondary: 600 pupils, 12 classrooms, 41 teachers, six hostels, three labs and a diningentertainment hall.

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