From the Field

The Power of Partnership

Two years ago this month, my colleague Julia Firestone and I got an email from Zizwani Mhango, a Zambian living in the UK who came across our work and wanted to chat about it.  By chance on this call, we mentioned a “pie in the sky” idea from one of our co-founders, Mike Weiss, to use fingerprint data to track attendance data at our schools.

The idea had come about a year after struggling through our attendance data and analyzing it. It had become painstaking to track our students over time – daily attendance records weren’t entered into data systems until the end of the term, and it took an immense amount of human-power to transcribe it, match students over time, and analyze the information.  Students names would be spelled differently each term, dates of birth were unknown, addresses were non-existent, and often times the registers were dusty and dirty from the term and difficult to read. See an example photo below! And by the time the team in Zambia saw summary data on how each school and teacher was doing, the next term was already underway.

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It was around this time that we started increasingly seeing smartphones unlocked with people’s fingerprints. We did some initial research – the units were expensive, they weren’t designed to be used in dusty, rural conditions, and they often needed to be connected to the internet, which wasn’t an option for us. We talked about this with Zizwani, and he mentioned a startup non-profit he knew that was working to solve this exact issue.

A week later, we were on a call with Alexandra Grigore from Simprints discussing their product and its development. They were still in early stages, field testing different sensors for local conditions in developing nations.  A month later, the Simprints team was planning to visit Zambia to include our students and parents in their field testing.  Two months later, Dan Stori, Alexandra, and Zizwani were at Kanyelele Community School working with our communities.

All of this brings us to the last two weeks, where Helen Lundebye, James Thomas and Julia Kraus from Simprints, and our very own Alex Schilling, travelled to Zambia to roll out our attendance pilot.  It’s the first of its kind being used for education purposes, and their time here was incredible!  It started with training our management staff on the system, answering questions, and adjusting the work flow to meet their needs. Then, the management staff trained the teachers in the two schools for the pilot, showing their mastery over the program.  And on Monday and Tuesday, we enrolled close to 700 students across two schools using the new system.  This week, our teachers have been using the scanners to take accurate attendance electronically – our students line up for school, and scan their fingerprint as they enter.  Once the database creation is complete, management staff from New York to Joel village will be able to see the attendance in each teacher’s class (including teachers themselves) over the week.  We’ll be able to troubleshoot issues, track down students who have been absent, and work more closely with our communities.  We’ll have accurate data in real-time, rather than unreliable data at the end of the term or year.

Over the last week, I have thought a lot about all of the little steps that got us to this point.  A chance email from a Zambian living abroad.  A coincidental connection to a startup organization.  The follow-through on any number of individuals to have calls and really talk about our work honestly.  The openness to new ideas and working with other organizations towards a common goal. Opening our schools and communities up to visitors.

This is the power of partnership.

- Reshma Patel, Executive Director

Sports Day at Joel Village!

While working in the office last Thursday, Mphumulo Banda (a previously featured teacher) popped in to give the staff handmade invitations to his Grade 3 Sports Day. It was really neat to get the invitations and we were all excited to go see what was in store.

Throughout the term, Grade 3 students practiced long jumps, 100 meter dashes, and playing football. Sports Day is a 2 hour lesson plan in the iSchool tablet and serves as an Expressive Arts revision to mark the end of the term. It was a day for students to put all they had learned to the test! Students competed in teams and they chose the team names Kafue, Zambezi, and Luangwe after three large rivers in Zambia. The day began with students preparing the field for the activities. Students were given a variety of tasks, such as setting up the high jump poles and marking a perimeter around the field. It was a very windy day so marking the perimeter was a bit challenging!

Students busily preparing the perimeter of the track  

Students busily preparing the perimeter of the track  

The highlights for me were the high jump and the egg race. The high jump got progressively harder and it was really fun to see the students participate. The final height was over 4 feet- some students tried and fell, others started sprinting and then stopped abruptly with huge grins on their faces. The Egg Race, a staple field day competition from my childhood, was the most exciting event of the day. It was a relay race and the last team with an unbroken egg won. The students started out very slowly but picked up the pace as they got more confident carrying the egg with a spoon. The looks of surprise when the egg fell was priceless!

The final challenge- an egg race!

The final challenge- an egg race!

Sports Day was fun to watch because the personalities of the students really showed. There were timid students who looked surprised when they jumped the very high jumps, and competitive students who had to sit out because they got a little too bossy. The age range of students at Impact Schools varies so there were 8-11 year olds participating. Owing to that, there was a range of heights and abilities but everyone did their best! As a prize, Mphumulo passed out a school book and pencil to the three winners, all of whom were girls!

Watching students run their fastest and jump their highest without a care in the world was really heartwarming. I was especially glad to see so many girls participating and having fun as the daily reality for a young girl in Eastern Province is full of a large amount of housework. It was an inspiring morning all around!

Winners of the girls’ relay race checking in with the judges

Winners of the girls’ relay race checking in with the judges

-- Kristen Fraley, Program Implementation Intern

Congratulations, Francis Sakala!

Last week, Impact Network was represented at the Chimtende Zone Science Fair. Roughly 90 students from grades 2-4 attended the fair, and 10 students of those students came from Mkale Community School. Francis Sakala, a grade 3 student at Mkale, came in 3rd place! He will compete at the Katete District fair later this month!

I traveled to Mkale to ask Francis some questions about his experience competing in the science fair. Joseph, our Operations Manager, drove me out on the motorbike. Mkale School is one of the furthest schools from the office and it takes over an hour to get there by motorbike. The journey there is beautiful, rock formations and huge baobab trees dot the way. I learned that Mkale gets its name from the Mkale stream just behind the school. Mkale hosts grades 1-7 and serves over 200 students. The nearest government school is several kilometers away. The distance between schools is always a reminder of how far some students would have to travel if there weren’t Impact schools near their homes.  

Francis comes from Msonde Village which is right next to Mkale School. He was very shy during our interview, probably because he had an audience of his curious peers watching as we asked him questions. Francis speaks some English but we needed a translator. Sylvester Banda, a Grade 5 teacher, helped us out. Sylvester took all of the students from Mkale to the science fair so he was able to answer some additional questions.

Mangani Banda on the left, Francis in the middle, and Sylvester Banda on the right

Mangani Banda on the left, Francis in the middle, and Sylvester Banda on the right

Hi Francis, congratulations on winning the science fair!  What was your project?

I made an antibiotic paste to kill bacteria using local materials.

Did anyone help you with making the antibiotic paste?

Mr. John Lungu, head teacher at Mkale showed me which materials to use and how to prepare the paste.  

How did you feel about winning the science fair?

I was very excited to win!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be a doctor when I grow up.

Were your parents excited when you won?

They were very excited when I told them. They encouraged me to continue on in the same spirit!

I spoke with Mangani Banda, Francis’s 3rd grade teacher. He, like Francis’s parents, was very proud when he learned that Francis won. He is excited to see where Francis goes from here! I’m sure Francis has a lot of supporters from the Impact Network community and we will be rooting for him when he attends the Katete District Science Fair.

-- Kristen Fraley, Program Implementation Intern

Chitenge, Chitenge!

Timepo’s son peaking out from his chitenge wrap

Timepo’s son peaking out from his chitenge wrap

I can’t believe time has flown by so quickly but the final weeks of my stay in Joel are upon me! Aside from busy exam week preparations, I’ve had a bit of souvenir shopping to do. I spent last Saturday wandering around the market and shops of Katete picking out chitenge fabrics to bring back home with me. I plan on using fabrics I bought to make tablecloths, a quilt or two, and decorative pillowcases to give friends and family as gifts from my stay.

A decorated crocodile Nyau

A decorated crocodile Nyau

Days here are brightened by women and girls wearing beautiful swaths of brightly colored fabrics. The chitenge is a multipurpose piece of material- typically two meters long and waxed so that it can be tucked in and worn as a skirt. The chitenge can be wrapped around the back or front and used to carry children or items purchased in the market. I’ve even seen some mothers carrying one child on their back and one on their front! The chitenge can also be worn as a shawl when it’s cool out. The Nyau, a secret society of traditional Zambian performers, are decorated with bits of chitenge fabric alongside the grass and animal skin they wear. Strips of chitenge fabric can be woven into rugs and sewn into patchwork quilts. It’s an incredibly versatile piece of material! You’ll see women wearing a chitenge over their jeans or slacks as it is considered a sign of respect towards the community elders. Among the bright prints and patterns, you’ll see the face of Edgar C. Lungu, the president of Zambia, and his party, the Patriotic Front. They serve as a way of showing political and religious beliefs, Zambian pride, and even the staple crop in Zambia- maize. Chitenge fabric comes from all over Africa and usually has a mark with the pattern number and place of origin. The fabric can range from polyester/cotton, pure cotton, or even a silk blend. They range from 15 kwacha ($1.50) to 45 kwacha ($4.50).

Chitenge chairs on the banks of South Luangwa  

Chitenge chairs on the banks of South Luangwa  

 Tons of patterns and colors from the Handover Ceremony

 Tons of patterns and colors from the Handover Ceremony

My pack home is going to be a bit heavy from all of these!

My pack home is going to be a bit heavy from all of these!

While at the market I practiced my haggling skills- something I picked up while living here! I window shopped for a little while- there are hundreds of patterns and you may not see the same pattern twice. I’m excited to start sewing which I’ll do as soon as I’m back in the States. I’m sure I’ll think of Joel Village and life in Zambia every time I see them!

"We start each day by saying hello to each other": Read Kristen's interview with teacher Mphumulo Banda!

Mphumulo Banda is a new teacher at Impact Network and over the course of his first term has shown great initiative, a passion for education, and truly impressive classroom management skills. He teaches Grade Three at Joel Community School – enjoy!

Thank you for letting me ask you some questions, Mphumulo. Do you live in the community or nearby? Where are you from?

Yes, I do. I live in Joel, very near to the school. My parents live in Chipata but this is our family’s community. I have many family members here in Joel. I found out about Impact Network when I visited my grandmother. I was still in Secondary school then and was very interested in applying.

How do you greet your students in the morning?

We start each day by saying hello to each other. I have my students stand and sing a song for about one minute. They sing a different song each day. Then, we revise what we covered during previous lessons.

Do you like using the tablet and projector?   Was it hard to learn?

I like using the tablet and especially the projector. The students are very interested when we use the projector. It wasn’t hard to learn to use the tablet, no.

Do you like the curriculum?

 I do, very much. The learners enjoy the curriculum on the tablet and they easily understand concepts when I introduce them. The stories on the tablet are in English and Cinyanja so the students are able to follow along. Their favorite lesson so far was Thomas Tuber and his vegetable friends. The lesson was fun and the students will not forget it!

How do you get the students to listen and behave?

I have a very large class so we have rules and the students keep to them. We created our class rules together on the first day of the term and we follow them every day. If a pupil breaks a rule, I ask them to show which rule they didn’t follow and I remind them of what we agreed on.

How are the training sessions?  Do they help with your teaching? Are you close with other teachers?

I love the monthly training sessions. They are a great time to meet teachers from the other schools. It is very helpful to talk to other Grade Three teachers and to learn from them. The presentations are very helpful, especially for the new teachers. I have a close relationship with Joseph Banda, a Grade Six teacher here. He gives me good advice when I need help. He teaches extra book lessons with his students because he teaches the upper grade. I usually watch those lessons so I can learn from him. We usually plan our lessons together.

What is the most meaningful thing about teaching?

It has been my dream to teach and to help the young ones. I enjoy sharing the knowledge I have with my students. I share everything I can with them! That is the most meaningful thing about teaching for me.

How do you help the kids who need extra help?

I work closely with students who need extra help and we also have daily tutoring sessions. I use government books to help the learners during our tutoring sessions.

Do you have much contact with the parents?

Just two weeks ago I phoned the parents from our tutoring sessions. I wanted them to see what our lessons look like and what our students learn. I get along very well with the parents.

How is school different today than it was for you growing up?  Give examples.

I went to a government school for primary school and then to Secondary school at a boarding school in Mambo district. When I went to primary school we didn’t have electricity so Impact schools are very different. We didn’t have many books. I think the lessons learners have today are easier, especially because of the projector.

What is your favorite thing you’ve done this year?

I would say the garden we planted. We did that as a class and every student was involved. We dug areas for the bricks and arranged them. I had students bring plants to school and we all worked together!

Learning more about Mphumulo and his drive to be an excellent teacher really brightened my day. Mphumulo’s is a story of a young teacher with a passion for education and an Impact Network community school in his community. Talking with him today was a reminder of the positive impact these schools have for so many different people here in Katete District. I’m sure he will continue to put his heart into teaching as the year progresses!

Thanks for reading,

Kristen

Reflections from Joel village...

After a two week hiatus, we are back!  I am rounding out my last day of a two-week trip here to our projects and return more humbled, more invigorated, and more excited about our future ahead.

Over my time here, I have had the immense privilege of seeing:

  • 100% of Teachers on the Exam Committee arriving on time and ready to work!  Our exam committee for term 1 met on Saturday to develop questions and exams for our upcoming end-of-term exams. It was my first time seeing the incredible dedication, time and energy in the room to ensure our students are being tested fairly and accurately.  Amazing work!
  • Teamwork – real, messy and productive team work.  From large group meetings to smaller discussions, our management team came to the table with great ideas and creative solutions to improve our programs and plan for our expansion.
  • Board Member, Anup Patel, experienced our students and schools for the first time.  From watching little people learn to read and write to seeing older scholars complete complex mathematical equations – seeing it from someone for the first time is always a powerful moment for the team.
  • Huge progress towards meeting our goals of educating students through the primary grades. Our biggest group of grade 7 students yet – 4 classes! – is working hard NOW to prepare for their examinations in November.  Our teachers are reinforcing that to be successful, they need to work a little bit each day towards a goal.

As always, our scholars were engaged in their own education, but what struck me this visit was the amazing dedication of our 60 teachers.  From our oldest teachers to ones hired just a few short months ago, I saw teachers working closely with students to learn how to write the letter S, to learn how to calculate the area of a triangle, to draw an insect, and to improve their public speaking.  Enjoy some pictures of the adventure!

Japanese Ambassador, H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima, Visits our Schools!

Today we have a piece on the Handover Ceremony from our intern on the ground, Kristen!

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 was a big day at Joel Community School! We were joined by the Japanese Ambassador to Zambia H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima, his Royal Highness Chief M’ban’gombe, the Permanent Secretary of Eastern Province, and many other distinguished guests as they came to attend a handover ceremony for 3 schools funded by the Japanese Embassy in Lusaka.

Preparations for the day began early – ten cooks began preparing the meal at 7:00. The cooks were preparing enough nshima for a couple hundred people and while taking pictures, they suggested I try stirring the pot. I could barely even move the spoon through the nshima!

Guests began arriving at 8:00 as we were completing the last of the finishing touches. The turnout was large with around 500 people in attendance. There were headsmen and respected elders of the village, parents of Impact students, students themselves, and all of Impact School’s teachers. Students performed for the parents and staff as we waited for the Ambassador to arrive. They prepared a traditional dance routine and a series of songs.

Once the Ambassador and other distinguished guests arrived, the ceremony began when the Master of Ceremony, Mr. Fosters Mapata Mwanza, Head of Kalumbi School, led everyone in singing the national anthem. Afterwards, parents from Joel sang a welcoming song and three Nyau came for their first series of dances. As the Nyau were dancing, their assistants dug holes and set up two 20 foot tall tree trunks connected with wire, in preparation of the final dance. While they were dancing, the Master of Ceremony explained that the Nyau dancing in front of us were not human – they were animal spirits. The energy was very high as they drummed and danced and we were excited to see their following dances.

During the ceremony, all of the guests delivered speeches. Daniel Mwanza, the Regional Director of Impact Network, began by explaining what Impact Network does, and how we work to bridge the gap between urban and rural by using e-learning solutions. He explained that in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, Impact Network is able to provide education to over 2,300 students at 9 community schools in the region. He then explained that due to an increase in students, there has not been enough space to accommodate all learners. The grant provided by the Japanese Embassy is an answer to that problem as there are now six more usable classrooms for students.

Ambassador H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima delivered a speech regarding the grant and the Japanese Embassy’s role in grassroots projects across Zambia. He explained that over the last 30 years, the Japanese Government’s Grassroots Projects for Human Assistance has funded over 160 projects! A project such as Impact Network was selected for funding because of their sustainable plan to expand educational opportunities in underserved areas of Katete District.

Chief M’ban’gombe stressed the importance of education as he could see future doctors and teachers in the students at Impact Network schools. He emphasized how important it is to achieve universal literacy across Zambia and congratulated Impact Network on their hard work towards the realization of this goal. Chief M’ban’gombe donated the land on which Impact Schools sit and said he was appreciative to see that the Japanese Embassy assisted in the expansion of three community schools.

Students from Kanyelele and Joel Community Schools performed two poetry pieces which covered topics such as Nelson Mandela and the liberating power of education, ending early marriages through education, and thanking the Japanese Embassy for donating the classrooms to Impact Schools. Mr. H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima clapped very loudly during the first performance when the students bowed and said “domō arigatō gozaimasu”!

We moved on to the ribbon cutting and a tour of the new school block. Daniel Mwanza led his guests around the new building, showing the new facilities as funded by the Japanese embassy. After the ribbon cutting, we all made our way back to the center of the campus for another dance with about 20 Nyau total. The Nyau are an impressive sight – they wear masks and large headpieces. Because they represent the spirits of animals, they make guttural calls and whoops so it is easy to tell when they are nearby. Several teachers from Impact Schools told me to be careful, the Nyau spirits can be tricksters!  The final Nyau dance was a on a high wire 20+ feet above the ground. It was incredible to see the Nyau limberly climb up the pole and move on the wire. The spirit was of a bird so the Nyau danced upon the wire for a few minutes. As he was getting off of the wire, the wire snapped and he fell to the ground. I was worried but everyone told me he was fine – his fall was part of the routine and signified the magic that held him up had disappeared.

We ended our day with a reception in Chipata hosted by the Japanese Embassy. The reception began with remarks from the Ambassador and the Permanent Secretary of Eastern Province, followed by presentations by the 3 beneficiaries of Japanese grant money. It was inspiring to see the other projects happening in Zambia relating to food security, sustainable paper production, and agriculture. One common thread between the organizations present were the provision of schools in rural areas of Eastern Province. As the Permanent Secretary for Eastern Province said, quality schools are a fundamental ingredient for the Government of Zambia’s goal to achieve universal basic education. Impact Network will continue to provide quality learning environments for the children of Zambia and is very appreciative towards the Government of Japan for their assistance in that mission!

Until next time,

Kristen

Preparations for the Japan Handover Ceremony

This week Kristen, our Education Development Intern, writes about the team’s activities to plan for a ceremony celebrating the completion of Impact Network’s grant from the Japanese Embassy in Lusaka.

February 28th is an exciting day at David Seidenfield School! The Japanese Ambassador to Zambia, H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima, as well as Chief M’ban’gombe, the Minister of Eastern Province the Hon. Makebi Zulu and many other government officials are visiting for a handover ceremony.  The Japanese Embassy funded the construction of three new school blocks at David Seidenfield, Mkale, and Zatose Community Schools. These buildings will accommodate more students at schools - an important step because there are more grade 7 students attending classes at Impact Schools.

The past week has been full of preparations, ranging from visiting the Ministry of Education offices in Katete and Chipata to deliver invitations to cleaning up the school.  Some of the highlights for me have been the many practices I’ve sat in on as students prepare poetry and dance pieces.

Several teachers at David Seidenfield and Kanyelele have spent countless hours over the past week working with students and helping them learn their routines. Joseph Banda, the head teacher at David Seidenfield, penned a beautiful poem thanking the Japanese Embassy, entitled Domo Arigatou Gozaimasu, and after plenty of auditions, Mphumulo Banda selected a group of five students to perform it. Zuwana Banda additionally coached a group of 6th and 7th graders on three songs and their respective dances. It’s inspiring to see the dedication that Zuwana and Mphumulo show.  They are new teachers and have stayed late every day of the past week to make sure everyone is ready for the ceremony! Many parents from David Seidenfield School have also been practicing nightly, as they are going to open the ceremony with a song and dance.

The Nyau will perform at the beginning of the ceremony so that as guests arrive they will be greeted with traditional Chewa dancing. Huge piles of firewood have been delivered, tents have been pitched, 10 cooks have been hired, audio equipment has been set up, and we are all ready for the big day! As I write this, all of the performers are going through the last run-through of their pieces.   

As the Deputy Commissioner of Katete said during our meeting last week, the future of the children of Zambia is everyone’s priority and goal - the handover ceremony will be a special occasion marking progress towards the achievement of that goal.

Check back next week to read more about how the ceremony went!

Kristen 

Getting around in Eastern Province

In this post, I'd like to paint a picture of the sights, sounds, and modes of transport in Eastern Province, Zambia.

Getting around Katete district is proving to be an adventure in its own right. Three weeks ago, on our journey from Lusaka to Joel, we traveled on a crowded bus along the northern edge of Lower Zambezi National Park. To my surprise we were driving through lush, tropical mountains! While the area we are in now is not mountainous, it is quite hilly and the fields are many vibrant shades of green. The deep, rusty red clay underneath our feet offsets the green. As it’s currently rainy season, the skies are full of clouds, many fitting to burst with heavy rain. The sound of the rain on the tin roofs range from a light patter to a thunderous cacophony, which can cause classes to stop and conversations to be put on hold. The heavy rains also contribute to the erosion of roads and the formation of tiny rivers in the clay. This erosion makes travel challenging, especially the day of a storm and the day after.

Joel village is situated off of a very busy main road. The road is full of pedestrians, bike riders, bike taxis with passengers, carts, herds of cows, motorbikes, and the occasional car or truck. Depending on the time of day, there are primary and secondary school students heading to school in uniforms and carrying their school bags. Many children use plastic carrier bags as their school bag. There are two schools within walking distance from where we live, and a few more that are in biking distance. It's hard for me to judge the distance accurately – a kilometer or two doesn't seem far until you get on the road and experience the hills!

Thanks to Bessie, our host, I've solidified my Chewa pleasantries so I am able to make small talk. I enjoy watching people's expressions change as I greet them – the sometimes-scrutinizing but oftentimes-curious gaze usually becomes replaced by a big smile!  I've put those pleasantries to good use as I take walks and explore more of the fields around. I've also taken to riding the intern bicycle to nearby schools. It can only switch between first, second, and occasionally third gear so biking uphill is out of the question. I've had some interesting conversations with people as we walk our bikes up the steep inclines though! The afternoon sun is blistering but, depending on where you're coming from, you can coast and enjoy the beautiful breeze.  The views are incredible: cornfields spotted with the occasional sunflower or gerbera daisy, all set against a backdrop of large hills on the horizon.

For the faraway schools, Joseph, the Operations Manager, takes us on the back of the motorbike. As I mentioned earlier, the roads are full of deep grooves from the rains so it can be pretty tough getting through the wet clay. An occasional stall or two is to be expected!

All of these modes of transportation are ways to see more of Eastern Province, to snap an occasional photo or two, and to practice Chewa. It's hard to picture just how remote Impact Network schools are until you venture between them. The distance is a reminder of how far some teachers travel to get to schools and how dedicated they are to make an impact in their students’ futures. It also shows how important Impact’s community schools are – they serve to open up opportunities for education around the region! I am humbled to be here and am looking forward to many more walks and rides through the hilly countryside in the next few months.

- Kristen 

A Fresh Approach to Teacher Training at Impact Schools

At this month’s Impact Network training, our team decided to shake things up.  In 2017, each school will have the opportunity to present a training session as part of the monthly training.  We are excited to see what our teachers come up with this year!  Our intern on the ground, Kristen, sent us this summary of how the first one went:

 

Shopping in Katete

Our preparation began Friday afternoon as Sarah, Joseph Mushashu, and I headed to Katete for a shopping trip. Joel Village is located off of the Vulamukoko Junction, which meets the Great East Road connecting Lusaka to Chipata. In order to reach Katete, we needed to either walk 3km to the junction or catch a ride. Fortunately, after a few tries, we found a ride all the way to Katete with Mr. Jacob Banda, the Head Teacher at Chivuse School, whom I had met the day before. After arriving in Katete, we met Daniel Mwanza and began shopping. We meticulously searched out the best deals and kept track of our budget - we were buying enough food for a 70 person lunch, after all! 

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    Above: heading to Katete with the hills in the background, below: driving through the busy market streets.

Above: heading to Katete with the hills in the background, below: driving through the busy market streets.

Preparing the Morning Of

We spent Friday night and Saturday morning preparing the classrooms with enough desks for 63 teachers and space for the management team. It was a tight squeeze but we managed to make it work! The morning was spent organizing cooking of the meal, greeting teachers as they arrived, and registering attendance. 

A Full Agenda

We began our training day at 8:40 am, with opening remarks from Director Daniel Mwanza and a prayer from Elias Phiri. Sarah, my intern colleague, and I introduced ourselves and in turn, all present teachers introduced themselves.

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    A busy bike parking area

A busy bike parking area

Impact Network is constantly searching for the best ways to train teachers and provide the necessary support for these community schools to grow on their own.  For instance, Impact is piloting a new project of school-led training sessions. Mnyalua School was selected to present the first training session, which they did on Teaching and Learning Aids. They presented an hour and 10 minute long presentation, which the entire staff enjoyed greatly. Mnyalua School prepared a highly interactive session and had full attention and participation throughout their session.

  • The session began with a PowerPoint presentation and Q&A format to discuss what teaching and learning aids are and how they can benefit learners.
  • Maxwell Mbewe then presented grid technique drawings to demonstrate how to draw faces (pictured below). His presentation was a hit! I could safely say we were all laughing and learned a lot from his technique.
  • Davison Phiri presented a teaching aid for personal hygiene to which he attached detergent boxes, a toothpaste tube, shampoo bottles, a comb etc. so that students could see the items they were talking and learning about. His aim was for teachers to bring practical materials when possible to make the subject they’re teaching come to life in a more accessible way.
  • Finally, Festus Banda presented on a word wheel to be used during tutoring. He demonstrated how to make a word wheel out of cardboard and the many ways it can be used.
  • Mnyalua School finished their presentation with a skit demonstrating the use of learning and teaching aids during class time. It was the most popular training session of the day and certainly an excellent way to continue learning from each other!
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    Mnyalua School's PowerPoint presentation on teaching and learning aids

Mnyalua School's PowerPoint presentation on teaching and learning aids

Another innovative session was grade group discussions.  Teachers from all schools met with fellow grade teachers and discussed successful lessons, teaching moments, any challenges they had during the first three weeks of the term, and other ideas about past and future lessons. It was great to see teachers sharing their successful moments and challenging moments together as it allowed for them to find a commonality between one another. These grade group collaborations will continue because they are a tool for teachers to learn from and support each other in their development. We additionally had a Lesson Demonstration bloc, which provided a platform for returning teachers to perform role plays in order to demonstrate teaching methods to the new teachers. Each role play ended with feedback on successful parts of the lesson and areas in which they could improve.

A unique part of the training session was the Exam Committee meeting with Director Daniel Mwanza. Four teachers write the exams for each grade level. They make sure the exams are in line with the Zambian Ministry of Education’s requirements and that the questions accurately reflect what learners have covered that year. In keeping with Impact Network’s democratic and community-based approach, there were votes on who would be included in the committee. There was a lot of dialogue between teachers and management staff to choose the committee and at the end of the session everyone was satisfied with their picks. The Exam Committee will meet throughout the term to create the exams.

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    Maxwell Mbewe's finished product - many teachers were excited to learn how to draw faces using the grid drawing technique! 

Maxwell Mbewe's finished product - many teachers were excited to learn how to draw faces using the grid drawing technique! 

After lunch, Sarah and I delivered lessons on how to use applications on the iSchool tablet. I presented an introductory session on the word processor for new teachers, during which we worked on typing, formatting text, and saving documents. Sarah presented on using spreadsheets to make an attendance register for the returning teachers.

Last, Daniel conducted an exciting discussion on some of the big things coming to Impact Network Zambia this year.   He said that on February 28th, we will host a hand-over ceremony for three Japanese-funded classroom blocks. The Japanese Ambassador to Zambia will attend the ceremony and the Nyau will perform.

The training ended with an evaluation of the day so that teachers could assess the training and add anything they would like to improve. Our next training is in April and is taking place in Mnyalua instead of Joel - this was received very well as many teachers from Zone B schools have traveled monthly to Joel in order to attend the training and it was deemed fair to trade the responsibility.

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    An example of a completed action plan from Maxwell Mbewe at Mnyalua School.

An example of a completed action plan from Maxwell Mbewe at Mnyalua School.

After the meeting, Teachers in Charge from each school checked in to discuss their Action Plans. This is a new project with the focus of implementing projects according to individual school’s needs. Sarah and I checked in with Teachers in Charge in order to see what their plans are and how they are developing. Some ideas included cleaning up and maintaining schools, building a school garden, and building a school kitchen. Teachers in Charge were tasked with brainstorming deadlines for the steps of their project, any potential challenges (such as rainfall), and resources needed to complete the plans. I’ve provided an image of Mnyalua School’s action plan to create a school kitchen. This is an exciting and useful development for them as they will need the kitchen for the Mnyalua based teacher training day in April. 

All in all it was a successful day! As with anything there was room to improve but we are hoping to continually do just that.

Best wishes from David Sedenfield school at Joel Village,

- Kristen