By Lia Grant (McGill University)
June 2nd, 2014
Today was a very eye-opening day. We visited two schools: a primary school which was separated into boys-only and girls-only sections, and a secondary school. As a future educator, I had a great desire to actually visit a classroom to observe the teaching and learning that was going on. Unfortunately, this was not really an option; especially as us all coming to the schools caused so much excitement for the students. We did, however, have the chance to speak with the headmaster of each school, along with many of the teachers. While a number of the educators seemed very interested in the project, an equal portion of them seemed hesitant to the change we were discussing. Despite this, we did receive a great deal of useful input and important ideas that we hope to implement in the schools on the Praxis Malawi campus.
More specifically, when we were at the girls’ school, we had a conversation with the headmaster and several of the teachers about what problems they noticed in their school, and what things they would like to see implemented in the new curriculum that we are developing for the new school in the campus. One thing that interested me immensely that came out of this conversation is that one of the teachers asked me, “What are your ideas in regards to students who drop out of school?” I responded in return with my own question: “Do you notice more girls or more boys dropping out in your school?” All the teachers unanimously responded to me that it was primarily young girls, and that the reason for dropping out was often due to pregnancy (either in or out of “wedlock”). The questions that I asked in turn were, “Are these young girls/women allowed to continue school while they are pregnant?” and “Can they continue once they have delivered their baby?” What one teacher explained to me was that girls who become pregnant without getting married are shunned from the community, and are too embarrassed to attend school until after they give birth.
With this in mind, I think that implementing a school/classroom in the Praxis Malawi campus for young girls and women who had to drop out of secondary or even primary school would be imperative. Moreover, if the school welcomed girls who are pregnant, it would possibly even help in taking the stigma away from these women, showing the people that they have nothing to be ashamed of and still have the right to their education and their life.
I left the school visits with so many questions to think over, and so many ideas. I am really looking forward to getting started in the next few days on the curriculum and possibly on the continued planning for the schools on the campus in general.