American teachers learn from Malawi’s poor education resources

A team of ten teachers and two administrators from various schools in the United States of America say resilience and creativity of Malawi teachers has taught them a great lesson that they can successfully do their class work using the resources they have without heavily relying on assistance from their government.

Speaking  exclusively to Nyasa Times at the completion of their four-week educational trip under Fulbright-Hays Group Study Abroad Program which is funded by the United States Department of Education the teachers said were appalled seeing Malawi teachers achieving the best with limited resources which the country’s learning institutions have.

An associate professor of education in Mercer’s Tift College of Education, who is also the curriculum designer for the project, Dr. Ismail Gyagenda, says one of the most impressive things is that although Malawi is one of the less developed countries, there are lot of officials who are trying their best, given the limited resources.

“In the schools, even the crowded schools, the teachers are trying their best and that has impressed our teachers and they feel like when they go back, they will probably complain less because they understand that they can work with whatever they have to advance the education of their students. The teachers can be more creative in the classroom,” he says.

He says the group has learnt that instead of waiting for the learning stuff to be bought from the shops, to be provided by government or aid agencies they can work with students to create their own materials in the classroom.

“They have also seen the challenges that Malawi is facing because of course you cannot compare Malawi with USA, they are two different countries economically but they have learnt that Malawians are very resilient people and they are trying to do the best they can given the limited resources, and that is encouraging for them as professionals,”Dr Gyagenda says.

One of the teachers Latoya Morgan a geography teacher at American government high school,  has described the trip as “amazing and an eye opener”. She says one of the things she has taken back home as a teacher is making use of what one has.

“So often American teachers complain about resources, they complain about classes but coming here really shows that they are trying to do great with what they have, using limited resources they have. Today we saw a classroom with 428 kids per one teacher and the kids are knowledgeable while my largest class is 35. So now I have nothing to complain about,” she says.

Morgan however says despite differences in other areas  Malawi and America teachers are similar in some ways.

“The similarities are that some of our students have a lot to learn, teachers have a passion of what they do. Even our salaries, the teachers here and the teachers in American are not the same but they are both considered low. Teaching is one of the lowest paying occupations in America,” she says.

During the trip the team visited a number of places in Malawi including secondary and primary schools, teacher training colleges, the national sanctuary in the Capital Lilongwe and media houses.

Led by the Project Director, Dr. Zipangani M. Vokhiwa, a native Malawian and an Associate Professor of Science at Mercer University, College of Continuing and Professional Studies, the project whose theme was The Interaction of Environment and Culture in Malawi, was among other goals aimed to enable the selected participants collect data for use in integrating environmental awareness and cultural competency into their Area Studies curricula in their classrooms and  to create an ongoing, online resource for collaborative opportunities for American and Malawian educators to engage in cross-cultural understandings.

Fulbright Hays Team with Education Minister

Fulbright Hays Team with Education Minister

Prof Vokhiwa Project Director and leader of the group

Prof Vokhiwa Project Director and leader of the group

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