Volunteer Charlotte Nicklin writes about her time spent with the eight Pre-Schools in Malawi and how herself and Judith have been sharing their experiences.
It’s been an extremely busy month at Mwaya Beach, as Judith and I have been working towards an important opportunity to share some training with the pre-school teachers that work in the eight pre-schools for local children aged 2-6.
Having spent time in all of the schools working with the staff, we felt we understood some of the difficulties the staff face daily with climate conditions, rain, humidity, insects, storage and limited resources. We’d also asked the staff individually if there were things they would like to cover, and as a result of both we put together a program that would draw on Judith’s experience as a teacher and what we’d both experienced first-hand in the schools.
There was emphasis to concentrate on general key learning methods that could be better utilised , the need for constant variety to hold interest and to adapt all activities to challenge different age abilities.
Charles Domingo, Pre-School Coordinator with the staff
Judith demonstrating to a group
It was also an opportunity to share ideas, Judith had already introduced new activities when she had taught in the schools, and it was good to all have a chance to think up new ways of using the readily available and free local materials as teaching aids.
Bamboo and stones from the lake shore are in abundance, and teachers were encouraged to come up with as many ways as possible to use these things. 101 uses were thought of, not just counting the pieces, introducing size big/small, texture rough/smooth, colour, patterns, pictures, drawing shapes, letters, stacking, even musical instruments.
Simple games and learning were included; we had home-made jigsaws from pictures which were laminated and numbered, so counting numbers in order would create a picture of something fun for the children. Judith had also created the “fishing game”, which promotes fishing conservation which is very important here. Using your magnetic fishing rod you catch the numbered fish to promote learning numbers but also learn to throw the little fish back as they’re “too small”. Genius! The teachers loved to play as much as the children had in school.
The fishing game
We had also borrowed 50 books from the library that Judith thought were particularly good, so teachers could discover some new stories to use in their classes. Whilst for some the library is a distance from school, all have to come to Mwaya each month so it was good to remind everyone what a good resource the Mwaya library was.
The library staff had agreed to keep Judith’s recommended reading list so in future teachers can easily find some of the best books rather than face whole shelves of children’s books that can be a little overwhelming.
In addition to the core teaching content of the day, I had a chance to cover briefly topics of health, including the perils of cockroaches for spreading disease, and some basic first aid that would be necessary in the school environment, as this had been something that was clear from having spoken with many people, there was in fact very little knowledge for the most simple problems.
With time constraints being our most limiting factor, it felt like we’d packed a lot in and it seemed well received. The take home message was to apply what had been learnt and to motivate some new ideas in the classroom. I look forward to being able to follow up in the schools through the next term as I continue my time here and hope to see evidence of it in use.
Take a look at Pre-School Education; what we have achieved, how we work and the project’s future.