Friday, 27 February 2015

Getting to know the schools

Yesterday morning we spent visiting the two schools we'll be working with in the project.  Well, a little bit of shopping for water and internet and other things at the bottom of Maslow's hiearchy of needs.  Well some packing too, as we needed to bring the kit for the first afternoon's workshop. It's so great working on a bigger project with a team and a kit budget again, but sometimes I feel like I've sold out compared to when research was a four hour bus journey out of Madurai with a spare lungi, a notebook and an audio-recorder.  Maybe I 'll miss this simplicity when I'm using a crew bus, or a research ship.

Anyway, the schools are in Blantyre rural district - not too far outside the city.  The first, Matindi, is just off the main road to Lilongwe, and we reached it in about 30 minutes by car.  There were a lot of children, working in much simpler conditions compared to a UK school, but the first impression was one of order and purpose.  And people - lots and lots of children.

After some introductions and visiting some classrooms and the Mary's Meals' school feeding scheme, we set off for the other school, Nasonjo, which was further back towards town, but well off the main road.  Again we were made welcome and shown around, even sitting in on one of the lessons for a while.

Some initial impressions:

  • It's a challenging environment to teach in, with limited facilities.  Classes sizes up to 120 sometimes.
  • Education in important here, families are behind their kids and there's an active engagement with the communities around them, at least in these two schools.
  • There are lots of extra projects going on - forest gardens, a headmaster's house, a library, and so on and so on.
  • The head teachers organise everything on their walls.  It's so easy to forget that computers aren't essential for working on things.
  • Children who can't reach one school (because for example there's no bridge from their side of the river) might be at another school for several months, and then show up back again.
  • Hysteria and 'orphan' are special needs categories, along with some more familiar ones.

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