Back to School at Kazembe
Summer (Malawian winter) holiday has ended and students are back in school! September 8th was the first day of classes for Kazembe Primary school, one of the two local primary schools in Lifuwu. The school yard filled with eager students, looking smart in their uniforms ready to begin their studies alongside with well rested teachers and staff. help2kids Volunteers are also back in the classrooms in full force and looking forward to a great year of teaching. Not only does this mark the beginning of the new academic school year for the learners, but it also the time of receiving the long awaited test results from last year’s Standard 8 examinations.
Last week, results were released from the Malawi National Examination Board (Maneb) for the 2014 Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE). The PSLCE examinations are for those completing the primary education program in Standard 8. The test covers multiple subjects; Chichewa, English, Life Skills, Maths, Science/Agriculture, and Social Studies. In all of Malawi, there was an overall passing rate of 68.8 percent of those who sat for the examination. This test, the Primary School Leaving Certificate Examination is extremely important as it is also used as a selection tool to allocate the students to the limited number of places in secondary schools. Of those who passed the PSLCE, only 41.9 percent were selected for various public and government secondary schools.
I recently met with Mr. Kamutu, the Headmaster of Kazembe Primary school to discuss the test results and future of the school. There were a total of 25 students who took the test at the end of July. Sixteen out of the 25 passed, representing 64 percent. Although this is slightly lower than the national average (68%) it is a landmark for the school and students at Kazembe. The students had the highest scores in Chichewa and lowest in English. This is only the second year that Kazembe has held the Primary School Leaving Certificate Exam. Until two years ago the school only accommodated students up to Standard 6. Now more students have an opportunity to prepare and participate in the testing than before. However, it is unfortunate that none of the passing students were selected for placement in the government/public schools for this upcoming year due to the students’ overall performance. There are hopes that some maybe chosen during second round selection in the coming weeks.
Currently, we have 2 help2kids volunteers placed in the primary school daily teaching in Standards 6 and 7. Students just said good-bye to a third volunteer who left this week after working at the school for 3 months and we are welcoming a new volunteer there today. Typically in the classroom help2kids volunteers assist local classroom teachers, and teach English along with a variety of other subjects.
Meet our current help2kids Volunteers at Kazembe discussing differences from their home country’s education systems and reflecting on their experiences teaching in the local school:
Caroline comes from Germany for one month teaching Standard 7 at the primary school and the Intermediate English course in the afternoons.
Differences: there is less discipline in the classroom along with different timetables (only classes in the mornings) and different subjects, for example: life skills, agriculture, religion (Muslims and Christians together). One teacher teaches all 9 of the subjects in his/her class.
Advantages: Some students are very interested in learning and talking with help2kids volunteers. Also, the teacher begins and ends each lesson so classes can end when they are completed.
Disadvantages: Classes are crowded. There are over 800 students with only 10 teachers in total. Some students cannot come daily due to other work at home and in the field. Many students are not fully supported by their parents with academics, and it’s very difficult to get school/learning materials.
“It’s a great and challenging experience to teach at Kazembe Primary School. I gain a lot from their smiling faces. It’s quite hard to see their situation (especially when compared to Western standards) and realize there is little we can do. I hope to share the idea that education is most important”.
Martin comes from Switzerland and is a long term volunteer who arrived in August and will be here until next spring. He teaches Standard 6 and coaches the football team in the afternoons.
Differences: bigger classes so there is a different teaching style with more repetition in front of the class and less interaction among students.
Advantages: Students have more respect for the teachers.
Disadvantages: Not enough books.
“I love to teach the children and help them to have a better life for themselves and their future children”
Denise recently returned home to Scotland after teaching in the school for three months.
Differences: There are fewer materials available to use than in western countries, and also less teachers so one teacher may have to teach all subjects even if he/she knows nothing about it. The teacher must teach himself first before teaching the students/learners.
Advantages: Learners as well as local teachers are so grateful for every little bit you give and are very appreciative of the help they can get, overall there is more respect from the learners.
Disadvantages: not enough school books, some learners have no pens and therefore cannot copy new material learned in the lesson and on the blackboard.
“I have taught three different classes in my time in Malawi and all I can say is that it was so much fun and really nice to see learners eager to start new topics and learn something new. I might just be one person they met, but hopefully I am one who was able to inspire them and given them an opportunity for their future lives.”
All of our help2kids Volunteers are having a great experience teaching at the school and love going there each day! We wish for all of the learners and teachers at Kazembe to have a successful academic school year!
This summer has also been a busy time for help2kids Volunteers and staff. Recently we have transitioned our management staff and now have a new Malawi Project Manager. We are pleased to welcome Nicole to help2kids team in Lifuwu!
Nicole is our new project manager at help2kids Malawi. Nicole has spent two years in rural Zambia living among the Bemba tribe, the tribal cousins of the Chewa people found in Lifuwu. In Zambia, she worked with a pre-school for orphans, established a family planning supply chain, and worked on many formal and informal educational activities with the Peace Corps. Most recently, Nicole worked as a graduate teaching assistant in global public health and managed a team of undergraduate students in creating a curriculum for HIV/AIDS prevention with a non-profit in South Africa. She has a Master’s degree in Child and Family Health in the Global Community from Syracuse University, U.S.A. She’s also studied HIV/AIDS counseling and testing through an internship in Ghana and research focusing on the gendered aspects of HIV infection in South Africa. Nicole is happy to be here on the beautiful Lake Malawi in the warm heart of Africa. (Photo: left, Nicole with Mustafa, one of help2kids secondary sponsored students)
Amy (the Malawi Volunteer Coordinator)