In October 2014 the Duckett family visited Malawi to help the Love Support Unite Foundation with some of their outreach projects and give their 3 children an insight into how African children live.
Here is how the three children felt about the differences between African and English school life in their own words.
[accordion_section title=”Ibzie – Age 8″]
“I had the most amazing time. When I first found out that I was coming to Malawi to volunteer in an orphanage, I prepared myself to see a lot of miserable, quiet, upset children. I could not have made an assumption more wrong. There wasn’t a single face that didn’t glow with the happiest smile. Everywhere I went, everyone around me, whether I knew them or not, said hello and asked me how I was doing. I have never felt more welcome anywhere that I’ve ever been.
One morning we went to school with the girls. The girls left for school at 7am so it was a very early start for us. The time that school started and the ridiculously early hours that the girls had to get up at was the first of many differences I noticed between my school in Britain and their school, in Malawi. When we arrived at the school, all the children quickly surrounded us but they were soon called over to assembly.
The assembly was outside where everyone had to sit on the floor, but at my school, assembly is in a huge chapel and everyone sits on pews. Shortly afterwards, lessons started so we went and sat in on 2 classes with the children. There were so many things that were different but also a few things that were the same. When the children answered a question, they had to stand up before they spoke. When the teacher asked a question, almost every child in the room raised their hand, desperate to say the answer (some were even clicking to get the teachers attention!). The way that the classes throughout the entire school is divided is based on ability and are called standards. On desks that were made for 2 people, 3 or 4 squished on and there were around 70 pupils in each class! Also, all of their lessons are in English from standard 4 upwards! At my school, we don’t need to stand up when we’re asked a question, when a teacher asks the class something, no one can be bothered to raise their hand to answer, my school is divided up into year groups, all based on age not ability, there are always 2 people to a desk in a classroom and a lot of the time there are even plenty of spare seats, my classes at school all have less than 20 students in each class, and if my teachers began talking Spanish or French or German in all of my lessons, I know that I certainly wouldn’t understand it.
On the other hand, they have all the same lessons as us, the structure of most lessons is the same (the teacher talks, gives examples then the class has a go on their own), and they have a school uniform. The boys will play football at break time and the girls will stand around gossiping and giggling.
Since coming to Malawi and seeing how the girls at Tilinanu live, making the most out of what they’ve got and being happy despite their circumstances, things have definitely been put in perspective for me. I’ve realized what’s important and what’s not and I will treasure this experience forever.”
[accordion_section title=”Scarlett – Age 11″]
“When we went to Shire Urban School it was VERY different to an English school! The school starts very early at 7am, but a lot of the girls have been up since 4am to get their younger brothers and sisters ready for school and to do the washing. There were not too many similarities but there were a few, like; the teacher writes the date on the board in the same way our teacher’s do. Also, they did some of the same subjects as we do, they have their own exercise books and they lean different languages like we do! Although we learn French or Spanish or German and they learn Chechewa. So as you can see there aren’t that many similarities but they do also have a lot of things that are very different.
For example, the way they explain things seems to be in a very complicated way than we do it in England, the teachers have whips that they use to get the children in line and they also use it to point to things on the board, they have chalk boards, they have very squashed desks with about 4 per desk, they have pieces of paper taped up on the walls with information on different subjects, they have all their lessons in one classroom whilst the teachers move around classes, the amount of children in one class is very big and they have all different ages in one class! So now as you can see there are lots more things that aren’t the same than the ones that are the same! In my opinion if an African child came to England and sat in a class full of English children then they would probably see the same differences but I think they might find it nicer in England and easier to learn because there are not so many people in the class. Also, we don’t have to start so early and our teachers don’t have whips.”
[accordion_section title=”Alex – Age 16″]
“Shire Urban School had some differences and some similarities to schools back in England. The method of teaching was very similar, with the teacher going through examples and explaining the methods of the work and then leaving the students to do an exercise on the subject.
However, as the lessons were so such shorter than in England, there was less time for the teacher to explain and for the students to work. As there was up to 60 students in the class room, the teacher didn’t have time to help each one individually if they were struggling with the work, whereas in England the classes are much smaller, meaning the students get more specific help. There were roughly 12 students to a small table in the class, meaning the working conditions are much harder in Malawi than England. A great difference was that the student had to stand when answering to the teacher as a sign of respect. Before school begun the students sing the national anthem, another aspect of school that we do not do in England.
Aside from school life, there are many more differences between Malawi and England. Firstly, the city of Lilongwe is completely different to London. Transport we took into town was by bus and was simply a mini-van packed with passengers. Then, in the town most people are on bikes rather than in cars. The shopping center, however, was similar, as it had a main car park with shops surrounding it. The people of Malawi in general were much friendlier than in the UK and seemed more positive. Malawi was more poverty-stricken with people living in less developed houses. This made me appreciate what I take for granted back in the UK. The small villages in the outreach particularly made me appreciate what I have as they had very little.
I hope to return to Malawi because of the great experience I had when I was there, because of the work I did and the great people there, although I want to stay for a longer period of time as I want to make a big difference to their lives.”
You can read more about the Duckett Families adventures with the Love Support Unite Foundation here.
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