Project Malawi – plans falling into place

It’s now just over three weeks before I set off for Malawi. Fundraising has gone better than I ever expected – the latest total is nearly £1,200, way beyond my initial £500 target with another school event to come. Another huge thank you to everyone who has supported me, this wouldn’t be possible without your generosity. If you would like to add a donation this link will take you to my fundraising page.

The flights are booked – I will be flying from Manchester to Frankfurt to Johannesburg and then finally to Lilongwe – the capital of Malawi. Once in Malawi it’s then the small matter of a five hour taxi journey to our final destination on the shore of Lake Malawi. Total travelling time will be about 24 hours, so hopefully I can get some decent sleep on the long flight to South Africa.

We had our last big project meeting this evening at The University of Manchester and the plans are now firming up. We will be teaching in three schools with varying IT infrastructure ranging from none to limited, but with the equipment that was taken out last year and a stash of new kit we should be set to get up and running quickly in Malawi. We will be teaching a range of unplugged activities and basic computer skills before moving onto coding using Micro:bits, Crumbles and Raspberry Pis. The main challenge onsite is likely to be finding a reliable power source.

Communication will be a challenge in Malawi. This will start at Lilongwe Airport where I will have to buy a data SIM for my phone and manually cut it to size! The network coverage is patchy and tends to drop out entirely between 6-10pm when the load is at its highest. This means there will be little or no access to the internet in the evenings – I’ve yet to decide whether this is awful or blissful; time will tell…

We are meeting again in a couple of weeks time to plan out teaching activities and finalise plans – exciting times.

Project Malawi – plans falling into place

Ripple Africa

Ripple Africa are changing lives in Malawi. Here’s a short video showing one of their most innovative projects – the ‘Ripple Rocket’. Known locally as the ‘Changu Changu Moto’ it’s a brick built stove which makes cooking safer and more efficient for thousands of families. This is a simple, sustainable solution to a long standing problem and a great example of how Ripple are making a difference.

If you would like to support Ripple Africa with projects like this, please make a donation to my #ProjectMalawi page here:

Ripple Africa

Project Malawi – update

Fundraising has got off to a flying start – less than a week in and on the back of a couple of emails, blog posts and tweets my total stands at over £250! In addition we have arranged a week of activities in my school, including a non-uniform day, disco and biscuit sale. Also, one of my colleagues, who is running the Manchester half-marathon has offered to raise money in aid of this cause. Huge thanks you to everyone who has donated or offered their support so far.

In other news, I now know I will be spending much of the Easter holidays being a pin cushion. In no particular order I need to be boosted or inoculated for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, yellow fever, rabies as well as going on a strong course of anti-malarial drugs. If I look a bit peaky after the holidays, you’ll know why!

If you would like to make a donation to help support sustainable education projects in Malawi, please use the link below:

Project Malawi – update

Project Malawi – Context

Not knowing what to expect in Malawi, I’ve done a little bit of research into the country, and in particular it’s economy. As a point of reference I’ve compared some of the key indicators to the UK. It makes interesting reading…

– 2017 GDP per capita in Malawi according to the OECD was $1,172 per year, making it world’s 6th poorest country. The UK’s output is 37 times higher at $43,620. Source: Wikipedia
The 2011 Welfare and Monitoring Survey found that 21.6% of 6-29 year olds have never attended school, the teacher to pupil ratio is 1:92. This compares to 1:21 in primary and 1:16 in secondary in the UK, which in itself lags behind much of Europe, for example in France the numbers are 1:18.2 and 1:12.9 respectively. Source: TES
– Only 58.5% of school children complete their first four years and only 23% of schools have adequate sanitary facilities. Source: UNICEF
– The percentage of females and males aged 25+ years that have some secondary education is 39.2% and 58.2% respectively. Source: Ripple Africa
– Life expectancy in Malawi is 63 years compared to 82 in the UK. Source: World Bank
– In 2016 6.5% of people in Malawi had access to the internet, compared to 92.6% in the UK. Source: Internet live stats

To help make a difference and improve these statistics, please make a donation on my fundraising page:

Project Malawi – Context

Project Malawi

It was a cold December morning and there was a light dusting of snow on the ground. I was sitting in Rochdale Masonic Hall taking part in a children’s mental health course. Africa couldn’t have been further from my thoughts, when an email popped up in my inbox: ‘A master teacher opportunity’. Expecting to see an email with training opportunities or access to more great resources, I read on… However, there was a bit more to this than initially met the eye. The opportunity in question was to spend some time in Malawi with a team from CAS Manchester and the University of Manchester developing the teaching and learning of computer science.

I was aware of the project previously from a donation of laptops our school made the year before. I’m not sure whether it was the unusual surroundings of the Masonic Hall, or the contrast with a dark, frosty morning but I instantly wanted to get involved. There and then I expressed an interest, and now three months later I find myself in the process of planning for the opportunity of a lifetime.

So what’s it all about?

This is the second year Project Malawi has run. Last year a team of 7 people consisting of 3 university staff, 3 Computer Science students and one Master Teacher delivered about 80 hours of teaching in 50 sessions to over 200 school students across a large age range, from Primary-level to Form 4 at Secondary School. Girls made up about 40% of the children involved. The paragraph below explains what happened last year, and is taken from the CAS report of the project.

A range of educational activities was planned and delivered including both “unplugged” (without machines) and computer-based activities. Unplugged sessions included teaching algorithms through dance, and through music including with hand-bells, programming “human robots”, and using Barefoot activities and materials. Computer- based activities, using laptops and pi-tops, included programming in Scratch using Code Club resources, programming in MicroPython on micro:bits using Mu, and building and programming cars with Crumble kits. There were multiple sessions at several schools most days, including at the weekends.

The project was such a success that there was a great demand for it to be repeated, but this time on a larger scale. This year there will be approximately 6 Master Teachers, 6 students and a small team of support staff delivering sessions over a 5 weeks period from late May to early July. I will be in Malawi for the first two weeks, helping the project launch and running sessions for both children and teachers. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up.

The project is organised by Ripple Africa who have been working in Malawi on education, environment and healthcare projects since 2003. They are a fantastic charity, with a great ethos to provide “a hand up, not a hand out”, their work is socially responsible, ethical and sustainable. I am delighted to be able to be involved in their work.

If you would like to make a donation to support the work of Ripple Africa, please visit my fundraising page by clicking on the link below.

Project Malawi