In Malawi, most families speak Chichewa or other indigenous languages as their first language, but English is the country's official language. A good grasp of English has become necessary in accessing information (there is a shortage of Internet content, newspapers etc written in Chichewa), higher education, employment, global commerce and, therefore, in bringing about economic development. This is crucial in a country consistently ranked in the bottom ten worldwide in measures of poverty such as GDP per capita, with over half the population living on less than $1 per day. Currently 1 in 4 of Malawi's young adults cannot read and write in any language.
Government policy dictates that all school subjects are to be taught in English, even though fluency in this second language is limited, amongst some teachers as well as pupils. This is one factor contributing to pupils' poor understanding of concepts and to primary school final exam pass rates being as low as 50% in some rural areas. As children cannot enter secondary school until they have passed these exams, many extra years can be spent repeating phases of education, contributing to huge class sizes (as many as 200 children). This in turn negatively impacts on learning by further stretching an already short supply of resources and promoting a less interactive teaching style.
This project therefore aims to improve pupil outcomes by developing a network of teachers who are taking on the role of Literacy Leaders for their respective schools. They are embracing the project so keenly and are already making an impact. They meet together weekly in a hub where capacity building focuses on:
- enhancing teachers' own English fluency;
- developing effective pedagogy (teaching strategies) for teaching English as a second language and exploring lesson ideas;
- dovetailing English skills with other curriculum areas;
- accessing / creating teaching and learning resources;
- using links with schools in the UK to provide exciting purposes for writing for children in both countries as well as enabling global citizenship;
- building relationships with nurseries whose attendees will enter each primary school, to support the teaching of early literacy skills such as phonics;
- establishing mentoring systems within their schools in order to share their expertise with their other teaching colleagues.
All this is done with care to show respect for- and preserve- children's mother tongues as well as improving their English. This project follows principles of partnership, empowerment, efficiency and sustainability. It is hoped that the successes of this project can be built upon to expand into neighbouring communities in the future. Rachel, a teacher and international development graduate from the UK, designed and managed the project initially (unpaid) but has now handed over to a Malawian co-ordinator who she supports.
Here are some examples of what your donations will help provide for the project:
£40 will fund a community event to help families understand what is being done in the participating schools and nurseries and how they can encourage and support their children's learning.
£30 will cover a Literacy Leader's transport costs for a term (those who don't have their own sponsor).
£10 will buy a month's stationary for the Literacy Leaders to make notes from their training and 100 laminating pouches for making re-usable educational resources.
£5 will provide refreshments for an afternoon's network meeting.
Costs are estimated as procurement is not always as simple as in the UK.
Alternatively, please contact Starfish Malawi if you are interested in sponsoring a literacy leader (from as little as £7 a month, and they will write to you).
Thanks for taking the time to visit this JustGiving page. Rachel will be posting updates on here so you can find out how things are progressing.
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