Rural School Gets Boost from U.S. Ambassador’s Visit

November 28, 2012

CIMG3178 Situated in a rural part of Ntchisi district, Mpherere Primary School seldom receives visitors from the capital. Recently though, the Mpherere school community welcomed the American Ambassador to Malawi, Ms. Jeanine Jackson and USAID Mission Director, Doug Arbuckle. Both of whom embraced the special opportunity to witness the impact of USAID’s Malawi Teacher Professional Development Support (MTPDS) project at Mpherere Primary School.

Upon their arrival, teachers, students, parents, MTPDS staff and Ntchisi District officials greeted the Ambassador and Mission Director. As a result of the project, program staff and government officials have seen tangible progress from the “Foundations to Reading” intervention, which translates to Chichewa as “Maziko a Kuwerenga.” Ambassador Jackson visited a class where the letter “z” was being introduced to students using the methods and learning materials provided by the MTPDS program, giving her an intimate perspective into project activities.

Throughout the lesson, the children ably demonstrated the reading and writing skills that they had mastered after less than half a year of schooling. After the lesson, children as young as seven were selected from standard 2 classes and read passages from texts designed for pupils in classes as high as standard 8. The concentrated look on each learner’s face throughout the presentation attested to its genuine nature, as did the random selection of reading passages. In Malawi, only about half of students who enroll in grade 1 complete primary education. The reasons for this poor retention rate of course are many, though a lack of eagerness by students to learn is not one of them. Enrollment in schools is bursting at the seams despite a limited number of teachers who are available and qualified to teach. The Ambassador sincerely thanked the teacher Mrs. Alice Kamzoole and her colleagues for their excellent work, recognizing early reading as “the key to development in Malawi.”

At the Teacher Development Centre, Ambassador engaged with the School Management Committee, local leaders, and parents and teachers from Mpherere School and neighboring schools. Community stakeholders shared their appreciation for the program and willingness to invest their efforts to support its mission.

Through the MTPDS project, the Malawi Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology works in partnership with USAID to realize its plans to implement a new primary education curriculum focused on learning outcomes, focusing on basic reading skills improvement in grades 1–4 and conducting a nationally representative, baseline survey of reading skills. To achieve these outcomes, the Ministry of Education will add 4,000 qualified teachers to the education workforce on an annual basis throughout the project’s three year tenure.

Having witnessed firsthand this program’s success, Ambassador Jackson expressed her thanks to the community and the American government’s intention to continue to support such early literacy initiatives. As she departed, the Ambassador joined in dancing with women from the local community and ensured stakeholders that she would share the program’s success with the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology and USAID headquarters.

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