Teaching has always been regarded as a nightmare in Malawi, chiefly, because of circumstances the pliers of the profession endure – ranging from abysmal salaries to working conditions. But as Nyasa Times’ Chancy Namadzunda writes, DAPP Teacher Training Colleges – knowing the unfortunate situation that is Malawi’s teaching environment – have, over the recent past, been able to train teachers who are prepared to survive some of such hardships.
She has the passion, is humble and associates cordially with everyone she meets – from her Standard 1 pupil at Chatsala Primary School in rural Lilongwe to a farmer who, each morning, laboriously works on his garden just behind the school.
“She has become a role model for our children, especially girls,” says Nellie Chipungu, chairperson of a mothers group in Chatsala Village. “She is a blessing to our community.”
That’s how Chipungu, and the rest of her people describe Agness Chipamba, a primary school teacher trained at Dowa Teacher Training College. The college is one of the many colleges built and run with funding from Development Aid from People to People (DAPP).
From Machinga, Agness talks highly of DAPP, saying the training she got has made her adapt aptly in the rural environment she is in.
“At DAPP we’re equipped with special skills so that we can make a difference in the communities we serve, in addition to normal classroom work,” said Agness. “We’re prepared to survive in rural areas.”
For instance, Agness – despite being female, and, therefore, traditionally regarded as weak – has been able to construct her own pit latrine and do small maintenances on her house without much ado.
“It is all thanks to DAPP,” she smiled. “While there we used to clean our premises on our own, did latrines and grow vegetables to supplement our diets. We also used to do a lot of social work by identifying some problems affecting our communities and helping provide solutions.”
According to the villagers, one of Agnes’ cherished achievements is to get girls who had dropped out of school back to the classroom. After doing research in the communities surrounding Chatsala Primary School, she found out that lack of models and cultural practices were the ones that accounted for early marriages.
“I talked to the girls, the head teacher and then with the Parents Teachers Association (PTA), and we eventually got most of the affected girls back to school,” she said.
She added: “Eleven girls who had dropped out of school are now in class.”
Primary Education Advisor (PEA) for the zone, Tony Chinyama, said Agness’ efforts and passion for girls’ education has improved girls’ enrollment in the area.
“When she came in 2011, boys’ enrollment was higher than that of girls. But the situation has turned upside down,” said Chinyama.
In 2014, for example, Chinyama said, Chatsala Primary School had 81 girls compared to 73 boys in Standard Five, 42 girls compared to 36 boys in Standard Six and 27 girls compared to 21 boys in Standard Seven.
Head teacher for Chatsala Primary School, Levious Machisawo was equally dazzled at Agness’ approach to work which he described as amazing and inspiring not only to children but also to other teachers and the community.
In addition to her efforts of bringing back girls to school, the head teacher also disclosed that Agness has helped fellow teachers to open up and begin to share knowledge and experiences, which he says has helped improve their delivery.
“She is different from teachers from other colleges. She interacts well with the community and everybody,” said Machisawo.
Apart from the TTC in Dowa, DAPP runs Amalika College in Thyolo, Chilangoma in Blantyre and another is expected to open doors in Mzimba this year.
Ireen Ntchema, DAPP partnership officer, said since 2003 they have trained over 2000 teachers all working in rural Malawian schools.
Ntchema said that among the many areas the teachers are trained in include agriculture, girl child education, health and sanitation and HIV/AIDS.
“All this is done to make sure that the teachers are not only trained to focus on the classroom but also with the heart to see their learners progress in their out of class endeavours plus making sure that the communities they are in are benefitting,” said Ntchema.
Despite government training thousands of teachers every year, most Malawian teachers opt for urban schools a situation that makes rural schools become dangerously understaffed.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :