One summer in Africa ..

18th January 2008 at 00:00
Seventeen scottish teachers who sacrificed their summer holiday to volunteer in Malawian schools have had their work officially recognised by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

The teachers were awarded "professional recognition in global education" at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday evening. They spent five weeks last summer working for Link Community Development's Global Teachers Programme. LCD works to improve the educational opportunities available to children in rural communities in five African countries. In Malawi, this is achieved through a school improvement project that receives funding from the Scottish Government and is partly delivered through the Global Teachers Programme.

Matthew MacIver, GTC Scotland's registrar, described recognition as "another success story in Scottish education", which allowed teachers to see the benefits of CPD. "Malawi is close to Scottish hearts and the work LCD is doing must be applauded," he said. "The teachers taking part have gained valuable experience and broadened their educational horizons."

Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, said: "It's vital that teachers here and across the globe continue to develop their skills so that pupils get the most from their education."

Roger Bamfield, of Highland's autism outreach service, and his wife Maureen Miller, headteacher of Keiss Primary in Wick, were among the teachers who travelled to the impoverished African country. They stayed with families in remote, rural villages in the Dedza region in central Malawi, 86 kilometres southeast of the capital, Lilongwe. The couple acted as advisers in their respective schools - Makota School and Namikango School - working with teachers and headteachers to improve teaching and learning, the management of the schools and leadership.

"A teacher in Malawi typically has 100 or so pupils in a class," said Mr Bamfield. "How they mark the jotters is a big issue. I taught them peer marking and self-assessment so they were not over-burdened with marking but still assessed what they were doing."

The couple saw little of each other and managed to speak just once on the telephone. But Ms Miller said it was "a tremendous CPD opportunity", adding: "It was a real privilege to be invited into someone's home and community."

However, the programme is not just about five weeks in Malawi. It is a 15-month commitment, explains Jim Aitchison, LCD programme director: "On their return, teachers develop global citizenship and heighten awareness of African issues in their school, local authority and community."

Since returning, Ms Miller has given talks in her school and other primaries about her experience. She plans to establish a link between Keiss Primary and a Malawian school. Mr Bamfield has spoken to staff and pupils in Highland schools about his trip. He is interested in developing "autism-friendly" approaches to global education: "Things need to be made more visual and experiential for autistic children. We're thinking of recreating a Malawian bedroom and classroom in one school and allowing them to try a Malawian meal."

Link Community Development is recruiting for 2008: www.lcd.org.uk.

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