Tag Archives: school

June 18 – Busy busy

By Naomi Crisp

No running in school

No running in school

I got up even earlier today as I couldn’t stop thinking about work. I finished up the editing and typing up the unit plans to be used for today. I then checked LEARN and emailed Mel as usual. This brought me to about 5AM and so I decided to catch up on writing blogs. By 6:30 I had finished those and was completely up to date so I thought I would write in my journal. By the time I had finished people were up and we had breakfast. I then went to visit Dr. Stonebanks and Arshad to keep them posted on the plan of action and we were off to the school once again.

Today was one of the less exciting days in the sense of workload. We had to go through the Progression of Learning to ensure we have everything we need in the curriculum. This took the whole morning but it was something that needed to be done. After lunch I spent the afternoon typing up all of the notes from the morning and preparing the documents for LEARN once again. I then sent the off and completed my work for the day. While I was doing that the others were formulating 2 other units to add as backups for Thomas when he is teaching. They did a great job and got the two done. While we were all working Roxy and Elise began the interview process with us Praxis Malawi folk. They asked insightful questions and were professional but fun about the situation. I was the first one to be interviewed and didn’t know how in depth I should go in my answers so I was the shortest interview, but hopefully they got something out of it.

When I went to send everything to Mel in the evening I found out how much work she has been doing back in Canada. She has got all sorts of media attention and awareness growing. Apparently we might have a Skype interview with McGill social media relations next week to talk about the project. It is great to have such an active person back in Canada to be doing such awesome work there; it really helps the process here in Malawi. We went to the school site once again and a 3 foot wall had been built with the pile of bricks we previously saw. I obviously used this time to run around the soon to be school while Dr. Stonebanks jokingly yelled at me to ‘sit down young lady’. I was so happy with everyone’s work I couldn’t help but be a goof with the kids that were there as well. We then saw where Thomas may be living next year and the general layout of the houses ECCOPS will be building! It is all very exciting!! Plus, Zambia tomorrow! I cannot wait!

“Azungu”

By Louisa Niedermann

Day 21:

Gule Wamkulu dance

Gule Wamkulu dance

This afternoon we went to see the Gule Wamkulu dance. This dance cannot be performed on missionary land; therefore we had to walk to non-missionary land to watch the dance. A bunch of the local villagers walked with us to watch the dance. The costumes were really detailed and colorful.  We ended up waiting for over an hour and a half for the dancers to start. This is another example of “Malawian time.” Even though it took a while for the dancers to start and the dance was unorganized, because they did not have drums to dance to, it was an interesting experience to watch the dance of this tribe.

Trying sugar cane

Trying sugar cane

People here do not usually brush their teeth; they use sugar cane as a substitute. People walk and chew on the branch and then spit it out. A bunch of us have been interested in trying it, but we had to be careful not to get a hard piece because we could break out teeth. Sugar cane was very interesting, it wasn’t the taste that was bad but it was the texture, it felt like you were going to get splinters in your mouth. The curiosity of this item made me keep eating it. I really enjoyed trying something that was common here but that we do not do back at home.

Day 22:

I was supposed to go to the Changkanga School to watch their after school sports program, however something came up and I was not able to go. Because I had promised everyone that I would go pick up their “happy pants” in town, I still went. I ended up going alone with Francis.  It felt strange being the only white person walking through the market.  I normally have the comfort of others around me but today I was all-alone. I felt the stares of the people around me. Although I did not hear the normal shouting of people saying “Azungu” I could tell people were wondering why I was there.

Construction of the school

Construction of the school

Later that night all of us took a walk to where the new school is being built. It is coming along. There were bricks that had been placed which were around 2 feet high. I could really get a sense of the classroom and how the work that we were doing was going to come together into this classroom.

June 13 – Foundations

By Naomi Crisp

Today was another productive day with curriculum development. We officially have the unit bases planned out for the year. The majority of it has been typed up and sent to Mel in order to check its transparency. This is an exciting point in the development as it is becoming more and more concrete. Dr. Stonebanks had previously said that it is tough for us to do our work because it is an abstract project and not tangible but honestly at this point I really feel we have something to hold. It may not be a building but it is an incredibly important document, something deeper than a 3 foot foundation. I’m proud of everyone’s work and for staying in good spirits when it could have easily got the best of us. We couldn’t have gotten this far without the help of Thomas and Cynthia also; they are going to be great teachers!

In the afternoon we walked to the school site as construction had begun! I know this had been causing the professors such stress but they did it! They brought the community together to start building a school. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, these are amazing people. The bricks were in piles and the foundation dug out, I could not stop smiling. It was a mixture of a space dedicated to our work, the professors’ work paying off and a new school for this beautiful community that brought such joy to me. What an experience!

Advance Work and Assumptions

By Amy Simpson

Chilanga Standard 1 Expressive Arts lesson

Chilanga Standard 1 Expressive Arts lesson

Before beginning our work on the curriculum development we did a week of advance work. We walked to the surrounding villages to interview the people and visited several elementary schools. We interviewed people in the neighboring villages about their thoughts on having a new school in the area. Everyone told us that they welcome the project but some also voiced their concern about the land on which the new school will be built. Some women also expressed concerns of sending their children to the Chilanga School. Besides the long walking distance to the school, they also worry about the dangers their children may encounter on the walk there, which include crossing a busy road and in the rainy season sometimes a river. It was the majority opinion that the project was welcome because they feel that education is important, especially if it allows their children to go on to higher education. Here it is not the family who chooses which high school their child will attend but the government who chooses based on their level of achievement.

At the end of each interview with the women, they would give us a large bag of groundnuts (peanuts) to bring back with us to Makupo. I learned that raw groundnuts taste like peas and they only taste like peanuts once they have been roasted. It was a kind gesture on their part and they gave very generous quantities. I think that it is safe to say that everyone here enjoyed them.

During our days of advance work we also visited four elementary schools. We sat in and observed both standard one and standard two classrooms for a total of four lessons. The standard one classroom at the Chilanga School was particularly interesting because of the lesson and the location in which it took place which was rather odd. In the small classroom you could see remnants of what I thought might have been desks at one point but were actually remnants of toilet bowls. The classroom used to be the school’s restroom but because of the growing number of students and the limited amount of space the restrooms were gutted to make room for the standard one class. During the lesson students were crowded together sitting directly on the ground. It was an expressive arts lesson and their task was to create whatever they wanted using corn stalks for material. Students made a variety of things such as small chairs, glasses and the most popular creation among the boys was guns. The lesson gave us an example of how local and free resources can be used in the classroom.

Another interesting lesson was in the standard two classroom at the Kapiri Elementary School. The students were learning English and the teacher was teaching them words using a whole word approach. Many people with whom we spoke with told us that they did not agree with this method of teaching students English. They say that before the government changed the curriculum students were taught English words using the phonetic breakdown which was much more successful.

The students in this classroom were also sitting directly on the floor, but what I noticed was that there was a pile of old dusty desks in the back corner of the room. I wondered why they were not being used but I figure that they must be broken and in need of repair or that there are not enough for all the students to use. However I also thought that there must be a better use for them rather than having them stacked up collecting dust.

As we walked to the villages and schools, as well as on our walk to Kasungu, a few of us kept asking our cooperative learners what the different types of trees were called. It was rather funny because we expected them to know (they knew some but not all) but if they were to come to Canada and take a walk with me and they started asking me what the names of all the tress were I think I would only be able to name two or three. It was just an assumption that we made thinking that because they are from here they must know all the names of the vegetation around.

Thinking of assumptions, it reminds me of another silly question that I asked one of the night guards. One night the security had made some fires around the village, which I had not noticed before. Out of curiosity I went up to one of them to ask them why they had made fires. I was expecting some elaborate answer, which would include some cultural tradition about who knows what and this is why I did not expect the answer that followed. Now brace yourselves for the answer. He told me that they made fires because … it was cold. I laughed and told him of course, that makes complete sense; we do the same at home.

June 6th – Handbags and Gladrags

By Naomi Crisp

Amy and I at Kasungu Primary School

Amy and I at Kasungu Primary School

I was up early again this morning as it was blog day. I have set two days per week that I send everyone’s blogs to Mel. This took me a long time to do as the internet connection is not very good (the politest way to say it). We set off on the bus to Kasungu to go to the primary school there. Half of us observed a Standard 1 class and the other half a Standard 2 class. We watched an English lesson again and saw that the lesson was almost exactly the same as a previous lesson we observed on body parts. This made it clear that everyone truly follows the syllabus provided by the government. In a weird way this excited me due to the fact that we are bringing something new and creative to the table. We then moved on to the Teachers’ Development Center and talked to one of the directors there. This was a new experience and he had a lot of great suggestions and information for us. Once we had finished talking, we went to the market to pick up some material and drop them off at the tailor to be made into bags and skirts. The market was busy again today and the sun was beating down on us as we walked. A lunch break and tea down, we were back to unit planning ideas. This meeting went A LOT better and we managed to get the base of 4 more units done. To do this we had split into 3 groups and then go over the ideas as a whole group, which is what Dr. Stonebanks is planning on doing when he works with us on Monday. I think everyone came away feeling accomplished after that session and I hope it continues.

Tomorrow we are off to Lake Malawi. I am so excited for this but at the same time my mind is buzzing with unit ideas, thoughts of home, questions of Malawi and questions about myself. These are all things that take time and may not be answered this evening but are important to contemplate either way.