This week Miss Ward told Prep all about her time in Malawi during assembly. She was leading residential conferences called skills shares for heads, deputies and teachers, one delegate from every Anglican school in Malawi, to help develop their teaching and leadership skills. Malawi is the second poorest country in the world and the children saw pictures and learnt about daily life in simple rural communities where homes are often built from mud and have no electricity or running water.
Primary education in Malawi is free, but the schools are very overcrowded and basic. It is normal for a class to have over one hundred children in it, rising to over three hundred in some – imagine sharing a classroom with three hundred other children and just one teacher! Some classes don’t even have a classroom, they have to learn outside. Primary schools, like most homes, also don’t have electricity or running water, so life is very different for a Malawian school child. The children also saw lots of pictures of the skills shares, which are run because the Church of England Diocese of Birmingham is twinned with the four Anglican Dioceses of Malawi, a partnership which has existed for over fifty years. This is the fourth skills share Miss Ward has led, and sessions included Leadership, Phonics, English, Maths, Safeguarding, The Role of the Christian Educator, Prayer Spaces, Sharing Good Practice, Art and Games. Miss Ward taught the Malawians home to play basic cricket and rounders, which they really enjoyed! The skills shares were an enormous success, with all delegates participating enthusiastically and learning much from the join Malawi and UK leadership team as well as their fellow colleagues. The skills shares were funded, so the costs of each delegate’s travel expenses, accommodation and food were covered, as well as the cost of the hire of the conference centre. For many, as travel is too expensive on a teacher’s salary (£70 a month), this was the first time they were able to see Lake Malawi, which caused a great deal of excitement. Miss Ward said that it was difficult to put into words how inspiring and incredible the experience was, but quoted one of the participant’s words: “It was the training of my life. I and my learners will be forever changed. Thank you.”
Whilst she was in Malawi Miss Ward was also able to visit Jalo Primary School too see the toilet blocks! The Blue Coat School raised funds for these to be built in 2016; children were sponsored to complete ‘The Toilet Challenge’, a set of toilet themed challenges in the sports hall. The Headteacher. Mr Chrispin Dakalira, was very proud to show all that had been possible with the money Blue Coat had provided and said that it has made a huge difference to the school community and they are very thankful. She also showed the children a photo of a lion that she saw sitting by the side of the road (!) and of the pleasure of being able to attend her goddaughter’s fourth birthday party.
Miss Ward would like to extend her gratitude to parents and staff who donated money for her sponsored cartwheel challenge, which helped to enable delegates to come, as well as the children who kindly donated stationery items to give to teachers.