Expansion of Core Programme
Within Nkhata Bay
Josie had been working alongside primary schools in Nkhata Bay to develop school gardens for several years but the success of the work done at Mkondezi School in 2015-16 led specifically to the birth of MSPC. We identified the factors involved in the success and developed a programme to replicate these as much as possible. To be a wider success we really needed to see which Malawian teachers were interested and get them implementing the programme themselves at their own school. We held an Open Day at Mkondezi Primary in May 2016 to highlight the permaculture work they had been doing but also to highlight the programme that we had supplied them, to see if there were other schools interested.
We were delighted when three more schools signed up to say they were also interested in running after-school permaculture clubs. Working with four schools during our second year, we formalised the session plans, giving the teachers detailed practical activities and invited feedback from the teachers throughout the year. The Open Day at the end of the school year is still the only way that schools can officially join MSPC. The following years saw the number of schools grow allowing us to increasingly support more teachers and students in implementing sustainable permaculture practices.
In 2019 one of the schools that signed up to join MSPC was Luwazi CDSS, a secondary school near Luwazi Primary. We were unsure initially about whether to accept secondary schools onto the same programme as we only had the original primary school materials. We had a number of questions; Would it be advanced enough? Would it lead to saturation of the topics as our MSPC club members from the primary schools would find themselves duplicating the work in secondary school
As a result we decided to pilot it first with Luwazi CDSS, where the headteacher is very keen, and they are providing us with feedback on the content. Initial feedback seems that the topics are suitable for the lower years at secondary school, but to avoid duplication of material later on we are now reviewing each topic in detail to make specific changes to them for the secondary school programme. A second secondary school joined the programme this year showing the interest is there.
Second Year Packs
In the second year at Mkondezi many of the children from the original group wanted to join the permaculture club for a second year. While there can be benefits from their onward inclusion; in that they consolidate their knowledge and furthermore act as teachers and mentors to the younger pupils, we decided that in order to reach the maximum number of children with the most information, then new pupils should be enrolled each year.
To provide onward work for the already trained pupils we decided to develop a limited number of second year packs, which would draw on the knowledge from the first year club sessions. We picked topics that benefited from being multiplied and would be able to do them individually, with a small amount of discussion with the teacher. Topics such as compost, building a Tippy-tappy and zoning. In this way they could prepare the sessions for themselves, consolidate their learning at the same time as increasing the resources and providing useful ideas for the wider school.
Communities Around The Schools
From our initial feedback in the first years it became clear that the most successful schools were supported by and involved with their community. We encourage this link and continue to develop ways that the community can participate in the programme/permaculture.
The regular weekly sessions with the children allow parents and others to attend and get involved if they wish.
We also encourage the school to meet with the Parent and Teachers Association and School Management Committee’s early on in the first term, to explain the programme and encourage them to get involved.
We hold an annual Open Day at each school, inviting active members of the community and explain the changes happening on the school grounds. We collect contacts at these events and also discover relevant skills and resources available locally to encourage wider sharing.
We built wider community WhatsApp groups linking those that we have found to be interested around schools, to facilitate conversations and pass information to coordinate more help for the school.
We partner with Scope Malawi to conduct community evaluation using SKI techniques at the communities of two of our schools, Chinguluwe and Mkondezi and we are looking into ways in which we can bring ideas learnt here to more of the communities surrounding MSPC schools.