“Before, we didn’t know what to do with the children, and now we can see the difference in their learning.”
Children aged 2-6 are at a critical stage of development, and for as many nursery schools as there are in Malawi, there are shockingly few resources for teachers to help their learners succeed. Enter Perivoli Schools Trust, an early childhood development NGO that has successfully reached over 2/3 of nursery schools across Namibia. We began our partnership with Perivoli Schools Trust in January, 2017 (their first expansion outside of Namibia) with 3 trainers in 45 of Lilongwe’s nursery schools. Now, 10 months on, we have held a graduation with 79 of our original 84 enrolled teachers and have engaged 2,450 children.
Over the past year, teachers have learned the Perivoli School Trust’s eight module curriculum which seeks to re-invent the nursery school classroom and curriculum. Teachers are encouraged to tailor the classroom to young learners and discourages the traditional ‘read from the front’ teaching style in order to foster a fully-rounded, nurturing, and age appropriate learning atmosphere. There’s even a separate, teacher-run six module programme specifically designed for parents to engage with their children. Above all, in a country where classroom resources are scarce, the approach is to use as many reusable waste materials as possible. Teachers create big and little books from shop posters, play shops from recycled food and drink containers, instruments from cans and bottle tops, etc.
As coordinator of Perivoli Schools Trust, Malawi, I’ve seen the transition in teachers from hesitant to jubilant and the classrooms reflect the same. The teachers, grouped by area, have proudly established team names and songs praising the Perivoli approach. As the learners finish their transition through the programme, they’ve learned to follow their routine in class through accessing visual timetables which rely on picture recognition rather than expecting toddlers to read. They’re also learning to count, match, and recognize colors, explore auditory and visual learning, and work on understanding their bodies and how they move. Most importantly, the children are engaged throughout the day in age-appropriate learning to give them the greatest possible chance at the best education.
Following the graduation ceremony, our original three trainers will go on to deliver an advanced four module programme to their graduating teachers. This addition focuses on further classroom development, health and wellness, and environmental education as well as overall sustainability of the Perivoli Schools Trust approach. Due to our inaugural group’s massive success, we’ll welcome 7 new teachers and over 100 new nursery schools to the fold in early 2018. Down the road, we hope to adapt and expand the programme to reach Malawi’s rural areas and countless nursery schools therein.