My name is Wezzie Chisiye - I'm a Geography and Life Skills Teacher in Mangochi District, Lake Malawi

My school is located in a rural area of Malawi and has about 250 students coming from different regions of the country. The school is a catholic private school but still follows the national school calendar set by the Malawi Government.

Wezzie Chisiye Teacher Malawi

I have taught at the secondary school for 2 years and this is a typical day for me:

  • I wake early to the usual heat of Mangochi with birds singing in the background and after a glass of water, I start my daily stroll to school
  • Work starts at 7:30 am and we have two breaks during the day and finish at 3:30pm. Despite a seemingly short workday, I tend to work longer than the average hours a week clocked for most occupations, this is due to the preparation, a lot of paperwork, and grading I must do outside of normal school hours.
  • After the morning assembly, each class (around 65 students per class) heads to their classrooms. Each class has about five to six learners sitting on a desk that is really only meant for four students. The classrooms are also really small compared to the number of learners in each class
  • When they arrive the students pray as they prepare for the day. This praying behaviour is strictly embedded due to the fact that the school is a Christian institution run by the Catholic Church through an orgnanistion known as Sacramentine Sisters.
  • During the students' prayer time the teachers are busy preparing for notes and arranging lesson plans
  • Upon arrival to the classroom, students greet me with a loud ‘’good morning madam’’ tune, this is one of my favourite moments of the day. Attendance registration is then taken to check which students are present before the class begins.

I am the only Geography teacher in my school which means I teach all four forms at the secondary school.

Malawi geography teacher Wezzie Chisiye

A typical geography lesson

The lesson begins with me writing the topic of the day on the board and then asking students to brainstorm ideas and thoughts about this. I then discuss the topic with the whole class.

Students sit in groups and discuss further subtopics from their past experience/ knowledge in the next 20 minutes.

The last 15 minutes is used for conclusions and the students are given a chance to ask questions.

To complete the session I ask students to either do written exercises or oral questions regarding the topic discussed by summarizing everything learnt that day and give them assignments if needed.

The students particularly enjoy reading and physical geography because the activities used in those areas are practical and require their full participation. This encourages motivation since it stimulates interest and enjoyment in the lesson, develops objectivity and helps learners to be open-minded.

After morning lessons we break at 9:30am where students are allowed to go to the dining room to receive black tea served with no bread, while teachers in the staff room are served with plain tea with bread.

The school does not provide refreshments during break time so teachers contribute money for their own refreshments. The break lasts for 30 minutes and classes resume at 10 o’clock.

For the rest of the morning sometimes students start to doze because of the hot weather, teaching and learning often gets tricky due to the heat for both the students and the teacher.

Another break at 12 noon is given. I walk home and prepare myself lunch. In no time, I notice that it is time to return to work.

School teacher in Malawi Wezzie Chisiye

Teaching then resumes and often students are caught coming back late to class after lunch break because they tend to relax in their hostels with never ending stories forgetting they need to return to class after an hour.

After afternoon classes finish, I usually attend meetings due, teachers have a lot of responsibilities because we are very understaffed.

Being the only Geography teacher at the school, I also have to deal with a lot paperwork. Scripts need to be marked and then I have to prepare lesson plans for the next day.

Schemes and records of work for all the classes have to be done in preparation of methods, activities and resources to be used when teaching.

I find my own teaching resources:

According to the school budget, textbooks and materials to be used during teaching are limited and mostly not available. This makes it very tricky when preparing for lessons.

Despite having tight schedules with a lot to do, I am also paid less than expected. However, despite these challenges and the lack of enough resources, I try to be as effective as possible.

Lack of resources

Students also face challenges in terms of lack of resources like notebooks, textbooks, and pocket money.

Many students cycle long distances daily to and from school because of lack of money for public transport, while others walk.

Despite these obstacles, the girls try their best to work hard for a better life. One of my former students is failing to apply to the university because of lack of application fees and school fees; so such situations tend to demotivate girls who are bright, they can’t progress further because they come from such poor backgrounds.

Some don't put a lot of effort in academics because they feel no one will be responsible to pay for their school fees in college/university.

On top of teaching, I give motivational talks and help students with setting goals by realising their potential and working towards their goals.

It gives me joy to know that I am part of the girls' education and future.

By Wezzie Chisiye

Courtesy TES 

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