Literacy for Malawi

by CharChar Literacy
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi
Literacy for Malawi

“It is thanks to you that I got my new job and that Vanessa, my 8-year-old daughter, is able to read.”, Mr Bulweya told us recently. Soon he will start a new job teaching lecturers in effective ways to teach literacy. And we’re so proud of the difference CharChar Literacy, with your essential support, has been able to have on his family’s life! 

“My daughter attends a school where CharChar has trained and supported the teachers in phonics. Thanks to this, my daughter has learned to read and write in both English and Chichewa at such a young age! 

When I asked my wife about how our daughter was able to read so well she told me that it is thanks to Vanessa’s teacher and these new methods. So I decided to go to my daughter’s school and speak to her teacher, Mary. Mary explained how she uses phonics and play based literacy activities to teach literacy. She emphasised the importance of making learning fun for all the children and was kind enough to help me to gain a better understanding of phonics and phonemic awareness. Thanks to Mary’s patience and to the training she had from CharChar, I was able to pass my interview as a Tutor Trainer with flying colours as I had a good working knowledge of phonics!”

 

The difference your support has made over the last few months

Over the past few months we have seen incredible progress across both Standard 1 and Standard 2 classes! Since the start of the term in April, your support has helped to achieve amazing things at Emmanuel University’s Demonstration School in Lilongwe. In fact, when we shared this video clip, people asked us “Are these really Standard 1 children?” “Really!?” “What school is this?”

Our Literacy Specialist Teachers Thandiwe and Florence have been working hard to provide children with phonics lessons on a daily basis. These usually include playing a literacy based game such as HopScotch, where the children hop along the squares calling out the letter sounds and then 'land' on the whole word and read the word by segmenting and blending the individual sounds. Our teachers aim to make learning fun and memorable for everyone, including the teachers themselves!

These techniques mean we have seen children progress quickly and they now understand letter names and sounds, and can blend sounds to read out simple first words.

Nicky, our Director of Strategy and Programmes, said:

“How can I express my delight with the confidence – already – of the Literacy Specialists and the way they delivered the lesson. Andrew did not need to intervene, he’s doing well in preparing them and then letting them try it for themselves. They did an amazing job, and a lovely follow up small group activity for the learners. What an extraordinary thing to see these young children absorbing information like sponges and already able to decode (join letter sounds to read)  three letter CVC words (consonant, vowel, consonant). The first step is done, their little light bulbs are on and shining brightly. These children are on a new path to their education – as long as they stay in school.”

 

CharChar TV… (not quite) coming soon to a screen near you!

After relocating to Lilongwe, some 400 miles from his home in Blantyre, our Senior Education Officer Andrew Mchisa has been driving forward our programme with incredible enthusiasm and amazing results. 

Andrew has started taking a whole school assembly every day to help all children and teachers at the school learn phonics and improve their reading fluency and pronunciation. These lively assemblies are full of songs and activities to support letter sound recognition.

He’s using a ‘CharChar TV’, which he’s created from a cardboard box with a rotating cardboard ‘drum’ inside which allows the teacher to turn the handle and make different words appear on the screen for the children to sound out and read!

Here’s where we need your help. Andrew is currently working with us part time, but we would love to increase his hours to full time. He’s making a huge difference to children’s lives. By making a small donation every month, you could help more children to learn to read and write as expand this vital programme. 

 

Keeping children in school is essential to becoming literate

One of the biggest challenges children face when it comes to improving their literacy is being absent from school. Over the past few months, we’ve seen parents taking extended leave from work and taking children out of school at the same time. In Malawi, only 35% of children complete primary school. The longer they are absent from school, the less likely they are to return at all. Thankfully, most of the children at the school we work with have been coming back. Extended periods of absence mean they are behind their classmates when they return, and it’s difficult for them to catch up. If they don’t catch up it could severely impact their future education.

To tackle this, we’re working hard with parents to ensure they keep their children in school. In the classroom, our Specialist Literacy Teachers help to make sure children can catch up when they need to, and our smaller group sessions mean they have more opportunity to receive closer attention.

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Andrew, Senior Education Officer
Andrew, Senior Education Officer

Context during the period

Malawi is facing many challenges at the present time, from extreme weather events to Covid impacts. The poorest are those who are impacted most. Malawi is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts and in recent decades the frequency of extreme weather-related events, floods, droughts and prolonged periods of high daily temperatures, has noticeably increased. This year, the maize crop was negatively impacted due to the irregular rains and impacts of Cyclone Ana.  Cyclone Ana hit at the end of January bringing with it intense rainfall and flooding. About 221,000 people were displaced and infrastructure damaged by severe flooding in the Southern region. 

This challenging physical environment and need for investment in natural resource management is the space where children grow up making our work more urgent and your contributions all the more valuable.

Covid continues to impact learning and with just 4.8% of the population fully vaccinated this will not change in the short term. The current academic year has again been compressed (January - September) for the second year running, which presents its own challenges and obstacles to teaching and learning. The next academic year will hopefully return to a more normal one and we’re expecting it to run from late September 2022 to July 2023.

How your support is helping

New demonstration school programme: Our next step towards transforming literacy in Malawi

We’re really excited to be building on the success of our pilot programme, which increased children’s literacy by 433% in just one year. We are now able to provide CharChar trained and supported teachers to a government demonstration primary school in Lilongwe. We’ve secured funding to run our programme in the school for two years, where we’ll be showcasing how to accelerate children’s literacy with our long-term partner Emmanuel University.

Our Senior Education Officer, Andrew Mchisa, has already started training 2 newly qualified teachers in foundational literacy. As the programme progresses Andrew will be mentoring the literacy specialist teachers in the classroom on a daily basis.

Partnership with Emmanuel University

We’ve continued to work closely with Emmanuel University, where the third intake of students has been successfully incorporated. We’re now finalising a numeracy handbook which uses the UK syllabus for lecturers to use with student-teachers, and student-teachers can use with children, while Andrew has started supporting lecturers with face to face CPD. 

Strengthening Teacher Education and Practice (STEP) with Florida State University

We are thrilled to be part of a consortium of organisations receiving funding to improve teacher training in Malawi through Florida State University. and other international and local organisations, we’ll be working across 16 teacher training colleges to improve tutors; understanding and delivery of phonics-based literacy skills.

The programme launches next month – get the latest updates by signing up to our mailing list!

 

Will you help to empower children in Malawi with literacy?

Our demonstration schools directly support children with life-changing literacy education. With every donation, you can reach more children and set them up for the best future possible!

Will you please set up a monthly donation today? They help to create a long term impact, and right now when you set up a monthly donation through GlobalGiving it is being matched at 100%* (see details below).

Click here to set up a monthly donation

 

*New monthly donations (up to $200 per unique donor) will have their first donation matched at 100% after four (4) total payments

Your donations help more children to learn
Your donations help more children to learn
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Context during the period

Schools have remained open since our last report in August and were able to finish the compressed third term on 19th November. Unfortunately the predicted fourth wave of Covid arrived in early December however, the new academic year has now begun, with schools opening on 4th January. 

Vaccination uptake and availability in Malawi remains very low with about 3.5% of the population estimated to be fully vaccinated. Fortunately Malawi Government has recently received a consignment of modified (to cope with the lack of refrigeration facilities) Pfizer vaccine and a National Public Awareness campaign is now under way.

For the period July 2021 to 19 November 2021, several districts were affected by storms with heavy rain including Lilongwe, Mulanje, Mangochi, Chikwawa, Ntcheu, Machinga, Balaka, Zomba, Chiradzulu, Phalombe, Salima, Mzuzu and Blantyre affecting a total of 11,100 households across the districts with 13 registered deaths (seven due to lightning strikes and six due to collapsed walls) and 51 injuries. Some affected households are being hosted by neighbours within the communities.

In the current period of November 2021 to December 2021, about 1.4 million people (7% of the population) are estimated to be experiencing crisis levels of acute food insecurity requiring urgent humanitarian action to reduce food gaps, protect and restore livelihoods and prevent acute malnutrition. Around 4.4 million people are stressed (27%) and the balance of 13.1 million (56%)  people are food secure. Out of the 1.4 million people in crisis, around 186,000 are from urban areas (Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Zomba and Blantyre cities), representing 8% of the urban population, whilst the remaining 1.2 million people are from the rural areas and rural towns.

COVID-19 has impacted remittances, petty trading and self-employment activities. The annual rains have got off to a worrying start as Malawi only has one growing season from December to April.  January -March is typically the peak of the lean season when rural households depend more on wild harvested foods; spinach/leaves, mangoes and pumpkins/pumpkin leaves. When hunger is severe people will also collect the seeds from wild grasses and wild roots. Seedlings germinated in the fields in December then the rains ceased for a period and seedlings withered. This means the affected farmers have lost their seeds for this year and this will very likely bring a serious hunger period from harvest times in the affected areas. We don’t yet know the extent. 

Our strategy

You may recall from our last report that we have been able to rethink our strategy so that your precious donations make the greatest impacts. It is imperative that the successful and contextually appropriate teaching practices demonstrated by our original pilot programme reach a greater number of schools in Malawi (there are just over 6,000 in the country). Now more than ever Malawi needs to accelerate learning in primary schools. 

With accelerated learning for primary school children as a priority, we have continued to focus our efforts on teacher training. Working closely with the lead teacher training institution in Malawi, Emmanuel University (EmUni), over the past year we have cemented this important  partnership with EmUni and documented appropriate ways of supporting improved literacy teaching within the teacher training curriculum. Maintaining regular weekly Zoom and continuous professional development sessions with key lecturers at the university and documenting learning and challenges is crucial to not only the future success of our programme but also importantly, to enabling the Ministry of Education to benefit from our experience as Malawi Government moves towards degree programmes for all teachers.

Your support

  • Developing Teacher Training  

Once again your donation has enabled us to continue work with our partner, Emmanuel University who began to train a second cohort of student-teachers from August this year.  These student teachers are just the second cohort who no longer study for a two-year Certification, and who now study a three-year Diploma course. 

The Technical Working Group comprising EmUni Heads of Departments for English, Chichewa and mathematics and CharChar volunteers who are qualified and experienced teachers, an adult specialist trainer, and programme staff based in Malawi and the UK continued to work remotely. This is a slow process requiring commitment to the long term, an understanding for and sensitivity to the context and culture we are working in, plus regular technical challenges with intermittent internet on both sides and extremely expensive data in Malawi, with data costs in the top five most expensive data in the world (https://www.cable.co.uk/mobiles/worldwide-data-pricing/). We remain united in our aim to provide children with the best start in literacy and numeracy despite the challenges and have been rewarded with positive feedback from EmUni. Lecturers are developing their talents and beginning to use new practices in the classroom. 

As a team we are able to extract  internationally researched and evidenced best teaching practices and pathways, introduce new concepts around teaching based on our experience of what works in a Malawi government primary school setting. EmUni staff are able to select what they feel is most useful for their student teachers given the often challenging Ministry of Education curriculum and school timetable requirements. 

Lecturers are excited by the introduction of new methodologies, particularly as they have experienced the positive impacts for themselves and on their students. The Head of English has appreciated the creative aspect of phonics teaching using a wide variety of resources including simple, low-cost ideas from the local environment, and making learning fun for the learners.We The Head of Mathematics at Emmanuel University summarises recent work saying that we discussed the assessment of learners in large classes and that he has been able to share the approaches with his students particularly, the use of symbols to record observations - as this works with very large classes of children between 70 to over 200 children in some cases. The student-teachers will apply this next semester at the demonstration schools and he added that he is looking forward to learning more from CharChar in 2022.

We have found the work very rewarding and we look forward to our next step which is to place and mentor CharChar trained graduate teachers in two government primary schools, which serve as demonstration schools accessible to the University’s students where concepts are  translated into visible classroom practices. The demonstration schools will be accessible by Malawi Government and its stakeholders.

  • Supporting previously trained literacy specialists

The 40 qualified teachers who were retrained with CharChar’s literacy specialism have continued to practice methodologies learned with CharChar, benefitting their pupils enormously. Children in these classes are making excellent progress due to the effective teaching practices of their teachers, despite the compressed school year which finished in November. The teachers have had a well earned break during December which also coincides, purposely, with the planting season - enabling all rural households to work together to plant their food crops.  We continue to provide tailored assistance for their classroom challenges and psycho-social support for the teachers themselves - theirs is a very complex environment to work in even without a pandemic. 

  • Working with the Ministry of Education and the sector more broadly

We have had meetings with the Director of Teacher Education and Development (DTED). It has been a pleasure to be able to share our learning journey so far, and honour our commitment to keep the Ministry informed of our plans and activities.

With the Directorate of ICT we have understood the development of district internet hubs and the implication of these on teachers access to continuous professional development which is important for us in our working with government as our partnership would like to make available the materials we use for teachers, student-teachers and lecturers at all teacher training institutions in Malawi. 

  • VITAL Next Steps: £50,000 for two demonstration schools 

In order for lecturers and student teachers to see the new practices and the motivating positive impacts of different teaching methods, we urgently need to develop two demonstration schools close to the University. 

These two schools are also planned to serve as a live demonstration to the wider primary education sector in Malawi - since the practices are not on view elsewhere. We remain a small organisation with big ambitions but thanks to your continuing support we are making significant impacts! 

Our ask to you

Can you help us by fundraising in your community for £500 with a coffee morning, cake sale at your book club or a sponsored hike/swim/cycle etc. to help us reach our target of £50,000? Please contact us for a fundraising kit and support at: natalie.conti@thecharchartrust.org 

Finally, from all of us at CharChar a huge THANK YOU for your generosity! Please continue to support our work in these difficult times: we value every penny and remain committed to spending 100% of donations in-country. 

Natalie Conti

CEO

Blantyre, Malawi

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CharChar Coaching Support
CharChar Coaching Support

GlobalGiving Report May - August 2021

 

Context during the period

Schools have remained open since our last report in May. The third wave of the pandemic seems to be waning, however a fourth wave is forecasted for the region. Vaccination uptake and availability in Malawi is very low and about 2% of the population is estimated to have been vaccinated assuming those who have received the first dose also received a second. 

Our strategy

As a result of Covid-19 we have had the opportunity to rethink our strategy so that your precious donations make the greatest impacts. We already have data showing the significant and positive impacts of our programme on 4000 primary school children in 10 public primary schools. Our evidence-based, child-centred teaching and learning methods accelerated childrens’ learning by over 433 % in just one year. It was gratifying to see that the Malawi Government recognised the advantages for these children by posting our volunteer specialist literacy teachers to the same schools, so that these teachers can provide continuity for their pupils and build on the significant progress made.

To reach a greater number of schools in Malawi (there are just over 6,000 in the country) we are now concentrating our efforts on teacher training. Working closely with the lead teacher training institution in Malawi, Emmanuel University (EmUni) based in the capital city of Lilongwe (Central region). We have been invited to help ensure their graduate teachers understand and are able to effectively teach using our methods. 

Our partnership with EmUni, an organisation with a strong ethos of innovation and community partnerships, aims to develop and document appropriate ways of supporting improved literacy teaching within the teacher training curriculum. This will then be able to be offered more broadly to the sector through the Ministry of Education, who set guidance, standards and manage the public teacher training institutions.  

Your support

 

  • Developing Teacher Training

 

Your donation has enabled us to continue work with our partner, Emmanuel University who began to train a new cohort of student-teachers from April this year.  These are the first primary school student-teachers who no longer study for a two-year Certification, and who now study a three-year Diploma course. 

To help with the development of the diploma course, we have been further developing our relationship with the English, Chichewa and Maths lecturers and learning more about the current course structure, content, teaching demonstrations, lesson planning etc. ensuring that we create contextually appropriate, sustainable practices and progressive change.

Working remotely during this period, the CharChar-EmUni Technical Working Group began by co-developing the aims of the partnership. EmUni identified their broad needs and challenges, which we responded to by developing practical ways in which CharChar can support the University to meet these needs and overcome the technical and practical challenges.   

Our joint Technical Working Group is now making good progress, we are currently focussed on the ‘how’ (pedagogy) of teaching. Lecturers are beginning to implement new practices directly in their classrooms and have received positive feedback from student teachers.  We have also had the opportunity to train lecturers in new methods of providing feedback to their students. One of our professional training experts has successfully trained the Technical Working Group in providing analysis and culturally appropriate positive feedback, following current neuro-linguistic programming approaches. The focus of these sessions is on developing and reinforcing best practice and professional growth. This approach has already been adopted by the lecturing staff and successfully implemented in the University.

Lecturers are excited by the introduction of new methodologies, particularly as they have experienced the positive impacts for themselves and on their students. This feedback is very encouraging and our team of volunteer technical advisors remain committed and motivated to continue this work.

On a side note, the process is quite intensive and there are frequent disruptions (and not always in Malawi!) with connectivity, bandwidth and electricity supply. This means developing the work both in Malawi and in the UK requires dedication and a lot of time. However, we are very grateful to be able to support our colleagues in Malawi this way. A few years ago this kind of remote support was unthinkable! 

 

  • Supporting previously trained literacy specialists

 

Your support has also enabled us to continue supporting about 40 recently qualified teachers who were retrained with CharChar’s literacy specialism. We continue to  provide; coaching and mentoring support, teaching and learning resources and psycho-social support throughout the pandemic. 

 

  • Working with the Ministry of Education and the sector more broadly

 

This year there have been a lot of changes made in the Ministry, this has made it more difficult to engage, particularly as the Ministry has been getting to grips with the impacts of the global pandemic. Now that there are a number of new Directors in post in the Ministry of Education we will reach out and introduce our work in the coming period. There is also a new USAID funded programme coming to Malawi in the next year and we have been developing ideas about how we can use this opportunity to work with others and help maximise our impacts

 

  • VITAL Next Steps: £50,000 for two demonstration schools 

 

In order for lecturers and student teachers to see the new practices and their impacts for themselves, we urgently need to develop two demonstration schools close to the University. Unfortunately our pilot programme being in the southern region, is roughly 500kms away from the University and is therefore not close enough for lecturers and students to travel to.  

As part of our work with EmUni we will develop additional teaching and learning materials (and professional development portfolios) around the demonstration schools, so that lecturers and students are provided with the opportunity for an immersive and holistic learning experience.

Everything we do in collaboration with EmUni is being documented, with the intention to support the development of all teacher training institutions nationally. The development of two demonstration schools will also enable us to showcase evidence based, high quality teaching practices in inclusive accelerated learning, whilst allowing student teachers and lecturers to be connected with the reality of primary school teaching in Malawi. These two schools are also planned to serve as a live demonstration to the wider primary education sector - since the practices are not on view elsewhere. We maybe small with big ambitions but thanks to your support we are extremely proud of the significant impacts we’re making! 

Our ask to you

If you would like to help us by fundraising in your community to reach our target of £50,000 for the two demonstration schools, please contact us for a fundraising kit and support at: natalie.conti@thecharchartrust.org 

Finally, on behalf of all of us at CharChar a huge THANK YOU for your generosity! Your support is essential to change the quality of teaching in Malawi and ultimately to improve the literacy rates and lives of hundreds of thousands of children. Please continue to support us - we value every penny and remain committed to spending 100% of your donations in-country. 

 

Natalie Conti

CEO

Blantyre, Malawi

 



Covid Measures at Primary Schools
Covid Measures at Primary Schools
CharChar Teacher Training
CharChar Teacher Training
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Carrying water for class hand washing
Carrying water for class hand washing

Covid-19 has continued to affect our work. Schools were mostly closed up to the second week of March, and with much disruption in communities and the education sector it took several weeks for the message to reach families for children to return to school again. The second wave of the pandemic took a significant toll on the nation this year, which sadly included the loss of friends and advocates of CharChar.

On the bright side, we are thrilled to report that our Partner, the lead teacher training institution in Malawi, Emmanuel University (EmUni), formerly known as Emmanuel Teacher Training College, has finally been able to open its doors to a new cohort of student-teachers at the end of April.  We have now formalised our partnership with EmUni with a Memorandum of Understanding. This partnership marks significant progress in our goal to positively impact teaching and learning outcomes nationally. 

The process of co-developing an updated teacher-training curriculum for the university and actively collaborating with the senior management has now begun. This first stage is crucial to the overall success of the project. For the lecturers, this is the first time that they have been exposed to the new methodologies and teaching practices. Our technical teaching programme, based on internationally evidenced methodologies and adapted for culture, logistics and the local context, remains unique in Malawi today. 

It is very gratifying to note that the partnership between Emmanuel University and CharChar has been recognised by the Ministry of Education.  We are honoured that the Director of Teacher Education and Development has expressed particular interest in this project and asked to be involved every step of the way. 

This current project and collaboration with EmUni builds on the success of previous work in which CharChar trained groups of newly qualified graduate teachers in evidence-based child-centred teaching and learning methods, where we accelerated pupils’ learning by over 433 % in one year. It is more effective to work at scale by training whole cohorts of teachers and working directly with a teacher training institution, using individual and joint strengths. Hence, everything we do with EmUni is in collaboration with the government, hence we are also documenting this work with the aim to work, in future, with other teacher training colleges in Malawi. 

Since our last report, we have been focusing heavily on our strategy with teacher training whilst continuing to support previous graduates of the CharChar teacher-education programme.  We asked a few of our CharChar trained teachers to share with you their experiences of teaching with new methods:  

Patricia: “The new methods we learned through CharChar training have been good for teachers and learners. The children, who started school with us 3 years ago, have made good progress. However, those who have joined recently from other schools or those who have had to repeat Std3  (I.e. have been kept back), have a big problem because they don't know their letter sounds and their level of literacy is far behind their classmates.

The most useful skills, which have made a notable difference to my lessons, is teaching and learning through songs, and teaching English by segmenting and blending the phonics sounds.

Constantine: I'm enjoying my new school environment.  Learners are keen to learn due to the new language techniques I have introduced. Learners are responding positively and actively during my lessons and are clearly learning. This is most visible when learners are decoding sounds. My new teaching partners (veteran teachers) are curious to learn more from me upon seeing great progress in my learners. In fact my learner's are having fewer challenges than other learners in other classes, this has been noted by other veteran teachers and the school management. This impact I believe is due to the special training I underwent with CharChar.

 There has been an increase in the number of learners who are attending my class. Most of them enjoy the games and songs that accompany my lessons, I can see that they enjoy them very much and at the same time I can see that learning is taking place. 

On behalf of all of us at CharChar a huge thank you to you for your generosity! Your support is helping to improve the lives and literacy rates of thousands of Malawian primary school children and their teachers. Please stay with us on this journey! 

Natalie Conti

CEO 

Blantyre, Malawi

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CharChar Literacy

Location: Knottingley, West Yorkshire - United Kingdom
Website:
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Twitter: @charchar_the
Project Leader:
Toby Gould
London, United Kingdom
$18,785 raised of $50,000 goal
 
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