My Main Inspiration for Teaching in Malawi
During my previous visit to Malawi in February 2009, I observed that Malawian literature wasn’t taught in Primary School and that creativity as a cross-curricular tool to enhance learning wasn’t employed. During my stay at Chikhale school in Nkhata Bay this Autumn Term, I intend to introduce literature and creativity in the primary curriculum through the medium of storytelling. I hope to work with the teachers and children offering sustainable creative tools that will enhance teaching and learning both in the present and future.
My name is Katie Bushell and I’m a Primary School Teacher at St Hugh’s Catholic Primary School, in Wavertree, Liverpool. In February 09 I took part in an educational visit to Malawi in which I worked in a school called Chimwankhuku in Dedza district.
With no electricity communication can be difficult and our arrival was unexpected but we were warmly welcomed nonetheless. I was touched by the way education was respected and valued by everyone there and the teachers were incredibly resourceful in the face of tremendous challenges. I was particularly shocked to learn that in Standard One, there were 453 pupils on the register and they were taught by 1 teacher alone – with minimal resources, a really difficult job!
In 1994 the Malawian Government made Primary School education free for all. Whilst this is a great step towards educational reform, sufficient resources are not available to support this new law. This led to a dramatic increase in primary school attendance, but it has also caused overcrowding in many schools and a decline in the quality of education.
During my visit to Chimwankhuku school, I observed lessons and team taught a maths and a literature/citizenship lesson. The respect that the children and teacher had for one another was outstanding, children were in school because they desperately wanted an education. However it was prominent that teaching literature and using creativity as a tool across the curriculum was not evident. The lessons I observed were not interactive, the teacher did the talking, whilst children sat, listened and worked in silence, learning was passive.
Lessons we Taught in Chimwankhuku School
During our maths lesson the focus was the 7 times table. We introduced interactive learning games such as bingo, times table raps and choral counting. The children were all active in the learning process throughout the lesson. The activities and learning style were accessible and thoroughly enjoyed by all. The teacher, Mr Bosco, commented on how enjoyable it was to observe other teachers, and that he had lots of new ideas to use in his own lessons. He also commented that the chance to observe other teachers was an opportunity he had never been given.
During a literacy /citizenship lesson, using drama we shared the story of Goldilocks. Then employing the technique of ‘talking partners’ we asked children to talk to their partner about different character behaviours. This opportunity to ‘talk to your partner’ in a lesson was something of a phenomenon and took a lot of encouragement. Following on from the discussion, we then asked the children to write a creative letter. Again, the children really struggled. It was apparent during feedback from the teacher and children, that they had had no exposure during lesson times to the concept of; literature in the primary classroom, using drama as a cross-curricular tool, sharing ideas through discussion and then creative writing.
My own School, St Hugh’s Catholic Primary school, creativity as a cross-curricular tool is at the source of all teaching. With an intake of 71% children who are EAL (English as an Additional Language), using creativity to enhance and broaden the curriculum has been key to our successes with our children and the schools development. Our recent ofsted report evidences the progress the school has made. Teaching children to be creative, independent and well-balanced learners is something I feel passionately about. For children to be able to achieve these goals they need to have access to a well-balanced appropriate curriculum and taught by a teacher who has had adequate training.
How the Visit Impacted on Me
The short time I spent in Malawi Schools had a big impact on me. I requested a term’s leave to spend in a school in Malawi, and kindly it was permitted. One of my goal’s being a desire to introduce creativity as a cross-curricular tool into a school, measure it’s success and hopefully demonstrate how creativity in the curriculum leads to accelerated pupil progress. Additionally, I felt that providing a real link between a Liverpool school and a school in Malawi would also enable pupils to share information and to learn about each other’s lives and cultures. I believe this collaboration could only lead to a greater appreciation of the differences and similarities in life.
Making Links with Chikhale School
Stuart Hardcastle, founding member of Beatlife (a Liverpool based community drumming group) has been instrumental in setting up the link between myself and Chikhale school. I met Stuart during a ‘Creativity in the Curriculum’ course in Liverpool, he was a key speaker. Stuart told me about the work that Beatlife had done in Chikhale school. In October 2007, Beatlife were in Malawi performing at the Lake of Stars music festival. Beatlife established a link with the local primary school, Chikhale, where they lead Samba workshops, donated instruments and have also raised the funds to build an additional classroom. I contacted the Headteacher of Chikhale school offering educational support and she accepted!