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Lottie Brown – Comparing Malawian and English Schools

Volunteer Lottie Brown (17) visited a primary school in Lilongwe, Malawi and offered the following thoughts on the problems she encountered along with their causes and possible solutions….

Thanks Lottie x

When I arrived at the primary school at 7am the atmosphere was amazing. I was blown away by their morning assembly which consisted of singing and dancing and could tell the kids were really excited to be there. After meeting the headmistress and telling her that the reason we were at the school was to compare it to english schools and see how different they were and why, we headed off to sit in some of the lessons.

In the first class we went into, it was really interactive and the teacher was making the kids move around and all take part which was really good and encouraging. Unfortunately, none of the kids in standard 1,2 or 3 had desks and were all sat on the floor. Quite a few of children don’t have the necessary equipment to learn such as writing books and pens and the teachers would sometimes have to hold up one text book at the front of the class for the children to see where as in England, almost every child in the class would get a text book each to read.

There were on average, 140 children in each standard which meant the rooms were very cramped and congested and it was obvious that the children’s learning was suffering because of this as many of them could not see the board as the only place for them to sit was behind the desk. Many children were coming in up to 20 minutes late, probably due to the fact that a lot of them have to walk a long way, often hours, just to get to school in the morning. Due to the amount of children in one classroom it was hard for the teacher to notice when the kids came in late, so therefor did not know to add them to the register, so if a child was missing, it is possible that no one will know where they are or if they got to school that morning which can be really dangerous.

Since the rooms are so congested a lot of the kids were not taking part and the teacher wouldn’t notice if they didn’t understand as there are so many of them and they would just sit at the back not focusing or listening. It was obvious that a lot of the children were not concentrating and a massive cause of this is because they do not eat breakfast. Some children will go three days without a meal so it is so hard for them to have any energy to listen and participate.

Unfortunately, in a couple of the classes we walked into the teachers were either using their phones or not teaching the lesson. In one lesson in particular two teachers were marking the students book work and were actually marking it wrong and were not really looking at the books properly when marking them which does not benefit the students. This could be because the activities they do every day are so repetitive due to the lack of options. In every class it was always answering questions in their books or listening to the teacher speak.  It would be good for the teachers to have more ideas and methods on different ways to teach. Love Support Unite introduced a teacher training programme last year where volunteers came in to effectively teach the teachers by showing them many different teaching skills and methods which would help the school go forward and benefit the children long term.

I think a big reason as to why some of the teachers do not seem as enthusiastic to be there is because it is a lot of children to handle. Teachers in England do not have the pressure of having to teach more than 140 children at a time. It is a difficult job to ensure all these children understand and are following with the lesson. However, all the children are very well behaved and will sit still on the floor for hours at a time without complaining.  Another reason that the teachers are like this could be the lack of facilities where the kids could really interact instead of just staring at a blackboard that was quite difficult to read and perhaps quite boring for both the teacher and students.

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