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July 23, 2014 In Malawi Blog
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It was just a little over one month ago that ten teachers left their homes, jobs, and families in the African country of Malawi to make the long trek to Lakeland College. Their purpose?  To begin an eighteen-month course of study leading to a Masters of Education degree with a special emphasis on early grade reading instruction.

The Malawians will return home a little over a year from now to develop and complete their thesis or action research projects, explain and defend their work before a panel of educators, and then continue their jobs in the Teacher Training Colleges where they are already employed. They will bring with them a wealth of new knowledge and awareness gained during their time in America and at Lakeland. They will be prepared to “teach the teachers,” raising the bar on the methods and best practices of early grade reading instruction for the children of Malawi.

group at museum of science and industry resizedWhen I met with them over lunch in Bossard last Friday, they were finishing their second week of classes. They told me about their two foundation courses, “Reading in the Content Area,” taught by retired Sheboygan Area School District reading teacher, Nancy Buhr, and “Curriculum Dynamics” taught by Bill Klein, principal at Cleveland Elementary School. Since arriving, the Malawians have been to The Museum of Science and Industry and Millenium Park in Chicago, Bookworm Gardens in Sheboygan, and the Old Wade House in Greenbush. The consensus among them in regards to these visits was one word: “amazing.”

The Malawians are here under the auspices of an $880,000 federal grant provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The grant covers their travel, tuition and other instructional fees, health insurance, monthly stipend and a laptop computer for each person. When these ten students return to Malawi in June 2015, ten new students will arrive to begin their M.Ed. degree program. The college is responsible for the costs of room, board, some incidentals, and administrative support.

In a 2011 “Education Strategy Document” published by USAID, we read, “The global state of education is poor. More than 70 million school-age children do not have access to schooling. Of those who do attend, hundreds of millions more are not being taught the basic skills that they require to be competitive economic actors in a global world.”

The faculty and administration of Lakeland College recognize that improving the quality of education world-wide begins with building a culture of reading among children and their families. Because of the college’s long-standing relationship with Malawi, we were determined to work directly with the Ministry of Education in Malawi to train reading teachers. Teachers in Malawi teach bilingually, in the native language of Chichewa as well as in English. We are committed to helping them learn how to design and implement curricula and teaching strategies that will cultivate skilled, self-motivated young readers in their home context. We envision these children growing into adults who will lead dynamic and meaningful lives; they will be contributors to a more peaceful, just, and equitable society.

Three of the ten Malawian students are already graduates of Lakeland College, having received their B.A. degrees here, and you will learn more about them, as well as the novice Wisconsinites, in good time. When I asked the group what might be an appropriate name for the blog, it was Lakeland alumna Ndamyo Mwanyongo ’08 who suggested Takulandirani, the Chichewa word for “welcome.”

The Malawians have already worked as teachers at home for several years, but for the next year, they will be students at Lakeland, and the college welcomes them with open arms. This blog is dedicated to telling you the story of their educational journey. Please welcome them by following us as we go.

 group at front entrance resized

This post is written by Lisa Vihos, the Director of Sponsored Programs and Research at Lakeland College. The program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this blog are the responsibility of Lakeland College and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.



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