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Moulding more than classroom teachers

HYGIENE — A learner washes hands from the hand-washing facility

Fernando Charles is a rare gem of a teacher at St John’s Junior Primary School in Neno District.
“I don’t believe in blaming my inefficiency and ineffectiveness on lack of resources. I use locally available resources to provide quality education to my learners,” he says.
Charles attended and graduated from Dapp Teacher Training College in 2012 under the Development Aid from People to People (Dapp) We Do More Teachers (also Known as 400 Primary Schools) Programme.
He proceeded to join St John’s Junior Primary School in October 2013 before being promoted to the position of head teacher in 2015.
The St John’s Junior Primary School head teacher has earned himself public admiration for his demonstrated willpower to innovate and change the course of teaching and learning.
Charles, has been mobilising communities to actively participate in finding solutions to the challenges affecting teaching and learning at the school.
This year alone, 65,000 bricks were moulded after he asked each family from the surrounding villages to mould 200 bricks.
“The bricks will go towards construction of classroom blocks since there is only one block at the school,” he explains in an email interview.
The 400 Primary Schools Programme graduate, apart from imparting knowledge in little ones, also dedicates himself to the promotion of water, sanitation and hygiene at school and surrounding villages.
He ensures the school has adequate hand-washing facilities such as buckets of water and soap all the time and mobilises learners and communities to take part in tree planting.
“I am determined to see this school growing to a full primary someday. So far, we have introduced Standard Five at the school using locally mobilised resources,” Charles says.
Dapp Malawi Country Director, Lisbeth Thomsen, says the 400 Primary Schools Programme was rolled out in April 2012 with a group of 18 teachers.
Thomsen says the idea behind 400 Primary Schools is to provide the opportunity for teachers who graduated from Dapp Teacher Training College but are working in government primary schools to stick together and support each other in improving the school environment where they are working.
“These teachers participate on voluntary basis and meet regularly both at the local level and also in teacher training colleges to plan and evaluate their work. The project has a unit of professionals who develop teaching plans and supplementary materials, which the teachers use in their work. These teaching materials are called the Spine in the programme,” she explains.
The teachers meet three times every year in preparation camps in which learning and teaching materials are produced and experience and plans are also shared.
Thomsen says 87 Dapp graduated teachers are working in 56 primary schools in the Central and Southern regions across 15 districts of Kasungu, Dowa, Lilongwe, Dedza, Ntcheu, Machinga, Mangochi, Neno, Thyolo, Blantyre, Chikwawa, Nsanje, Zomba, Chiradzulu and Ntchisi.
Kondowe commends Dapp Malawi for being innovative and working hard to complement government’s efforts to address challenges in the education sector.
He says initiatives such as the 400 Primary Schools Programme should be encouraged and introduced across the country if Malawi is to meet education goals.
“There is no hiding that our quality of education has been dwindling steadily. Thus, initiatives such as the 400 Primary Schools Programme need to be integrated and expanded so that learners in resource-constrained communities can benefit from the innovations,” he recommends.

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