Margret Phiri is a teacher at Chimwasongwe Full Primary School on the outskirts of Lilongwe. She confesses that she joined the profession by accident.
“I never, in all my life, dreamed of becoming a teacher. My ambition was to become a nurse or join any other profession except teaching,” Phiri, who turned 29 this year, explains.
But as fate would have it, her applications to nursing colleges hit a snag. Frustrated, Phiri applied for a place at Development Aid for People to People (Dapp) Dowa Teachers Training College (TTC) in 2012 and she was successful.
Dapp Dowa TTC is one of the four Dapp TTCs established to train male and female youth to become primary school teachers for rural areas in Malawi.
Once trained, these teachers become qualified and trained in both primary school teaching methodologies and in local community development.
Phiri says the Dapp approach to training teachers is what captivated her to develop deep love for the profession. “The approach prepares the youths to be agents of change in the communities where they live by providing quality service to the people.
And that is exactly what I had wanted to be when I dreamed of becoming a nurse,” she narrates. Phiri stresses that she finds teaching fulfilling and exciting because it allows her to be an agent of change for her pupils, helping them to find their place in life and to prepare them for an ever-changing future.
This ambition—to influence the life of their pupils—demands continuous and critical reflection on the strategies teachers use and on the effectiveness of their intervention towards pupils.
Hence, Phiri has focused on constant improvement of her teaching strategies and, as such, has been an agent of change for herself, her fellow teachers and the learners.
She discloses that since she joined Chimwasongwe Full Primary School in 2014, she has developed a practice, using her own expertise and networks, to find out-of-the-box solutions.
In 2019, she was one of the few successful teachers who applied to participate in a two-month training aimed at improving teaching strategies and evaluation methodologies for primary science and mathematics. The course took place in Japan.
Additionally, in February this year, the Department of Teacher Education and Development (Dted) nominated Phiri to attend a refresher course in Zambia.
“Both the course in Japan and the one that took place in Zambia focused on learner performance by improving teacher profession growth towards improved classroom practice. I am particularly excited that on the trip to Zambia, I was accompanied by our school’s Head Teacher on recommendation from Dted so that he, too, can benefit from the programme,” narrates Phiri.
Phiri says she believes that education impacts personal lives of citizens and the social coherence of national societies as well as economic performance.
And due to this crucial role, expectations from education are high: to improve educational outcomes; to deal with migration and segregation; to reduce early school leaving; to create continuity in learner pathways, among others.
For all these societal and political expectations, the answer ultimately lies on the shoulders of teachers such as Phiri, as they have to integrate all these aims into their daily practice.
Chimwasongwe Full Primary School Head Teacher, Wellington Chikwembani, describes Phiri as a hard-working teacher and a rare gem who has become a role model and an inspiration for fellow teachers and as well as learners.
“She is a role model for not only this school, but the whole district. She is the first teacher in this district to travel to Japan and Zambia to attend continuous profession development courses,” says Chikwembani.
“We intend to use her to inspire and motivate other teachers in all the schools in this district”.