Mwayi Trust’s Vocational Training Centre Growing!
By Sandra Trevethan
It is with great pleasure that we can report that the work on our ‘inclusive’ Vocational Training Centre (VTC) is progressing. As the pictures below demonstrate, the building is now up to the roofing stage. The roof trusses are up and the window frames and roof are the next to go up.
We were very lucky to have a contingent of four IASE members Marg Csapo, Mary Gale Budzisz, Scott Adams and Carol Coronis visit us for two weeks to volunteer with two projects. The first were the Patron’s and Peer Educator’s workshops and the second actually working at the building site. Their input was fantastic. At the workshops they taught the Patrons (teachers who volunteer to supervise the Homework Centers after school) and the Peer Educators how to make quilts, papier-mâché fish and mosaics using locally available resources, so in turn they can teach the learners at their Homework Centers. Everybody had a great time and the learners will definitely benefit from the IASE volunteers’ input. I need to say that the volunteers had to stay in less than desirable accommodations during the four days of workshops as we stayed at an Army Secondary School where the amenities were definitely not 4*. I am sure though that they learned a lot and will remember all their experiences with the young people and the teachers with fondness.
IASE volunteers worked relentlessly at the building site for four hours each day for one week sorting and moving bricks for the bricklayers. This may sound like an easy job but it was back-breaking, especially since the average age of these women is 70 years! They were wonderful and in the process had the opportunity to meet many local women (employed by the builders to carry water in buckets on their heads!!) and children.
Local women carried the water nearly 1/2 mile (on their heads) to use for mixing the mortar.
We are still looking for funds to complete the VTC, but without the support of IASE, we could not have started this project. The people of Chileka give their sincere thanks to IASE as they understand the opportunities and impact this Centre will have for their youth. Again thank you IASE and enjoy the pictures.
Sandra Trevethan, Executive Director and IASE member
By Sandra Trevethan
Mwayi Trust is a locally based NGO working with communities in southern rural Malawi, near the city of Blantyre. It is an IASE Volunteer Service Project site. Currently we are running a Homework Centre Program that focuses on bringing the community together to assist young learners with special needs to increase their school attendance and retention in the education system. Class sizes in government schools in Malawi are excessively large, often with over 100 learners in the classroom with one teacher, making it extremely complicated for learners with learning difficulties and other special educational needs to receive the attention and programs they need to succeed. Added to this, at the end of each year the learners must sit through a standardized exam. Failure in this exam means the students must repeat the whole year. Many learners fall into a failure cycle, increasing their absenteeism that leads to dropping out of school altogether. The Mwayi Trust Homework Centre Program enlists the voluntary support of Form-3 students from the local secondary school and school leavers to act as Peer Educators under the supervision of Patrons (teachers volunteering) to operate these centers three afternoons a week for approximately 1 ½ hrs each session. We are operating five homework centers this year. Each center is provided with a resource box containing balls, games, puzzles, learning resources, and stationery. Many thanks to the IASE GIVING Fund for providing some of these needed supplies.
This program has been in operation for only one year, but already we are seeing increases in attendance rates of the learners involved, some of up to 90%, as well as improvements in grades for many learners. We anticipated that the Peer Educators would improve their social and leadership skills, but we are also finding that many have seen improvement in their own grades. Parents are voicing their pride in the improvements their children are making. Head Teachers report greatly improved cooperation and communication between the primary and secondary schools. What is wonderful is to see ‘at risk’ learners coming back to school with such enthusiasm to learn. During last year, we held several one-day training workshops for new peer educators. Through discussions with Marg Csapo, Mary Gale Budzisz and Karen Nave we decided to run a four-day intensive training workshop for the new group of volunteers. In June of 2011 Karen Nave came to Malawi to volunteer for a three-week period to produce the materials for the Mwayi Trust Homework Centre Training Manual that provided the framework for the workshop. In July, Marg and Mary Gale returned with me from Namibia to work with the Malawi Ministry of Education, Science and Technology for one week and then to Blantyre to assist with the workshop. The financial assistance from the IASE GIVING Fund enabled us to transport nearly 100 participants from their villages, procure not only food supplies, but also all the stationery necessary to ensure the participants were ready to work and learn. T-shirts were given to participants who truly appreciated them. Both Marg and Mary Gale facilitated some sessions and even taught the Patrons some games that were definite hits. Sessions covered topics such as, creating a positive supportive learning environment, characteristics of learners with special needs, assessment, planning a lesson, recording and monitoring progress and making T/L resources from locally available resources. Evaluations were very positive and indicated the effectiveness and value of conducting a four-day intensive workshop rather than individual one-day workshops. The participants really enjoyed meeting other volunteers, lodging at Montfort Teacher’s College, and learning new skills. For some, this was the first time that they had travelled outside of their local area and it was an exciting experience. We look forward to running this workshop every year for each new group of volunteers. Mwayi Trust would like to sincerely thank the IASE GIVING Fund, Marg, Mary Gale and Karen for their support which enabled us to run such a successful workshop. The learners with special needs attending our Homework Centers will definitely benefit from this activity.