Collaborating for Change in a Developing Country:
The Malawi Project at North Carolina A&T
Liz Barber & Tom Smith
Dr. Tom Smith
Dr. Liz Barber
Every summer students & faculty from 3 universities travel
to rural Malawi for service learning experiences
that build global understanding, competence & leadership.
Who: NC A&T, VA Tech &
21 Students (currently)
What: Year-long A&T Course,
When: 4 Weeks, Cool Dry
Season, June to July
Where: 4 Schools & a Rural
Why: Leadership, Service
How: Learning & Serving Through
Participatory Action Research
Outcomes for university students, faculty:
Develop global awareness and cross-cultural
Notice, question global colonialism.
Hone ability to work in interdisciplinary teams.
Develop global leadership competencies.
Sharpen ability to think critically, problem-solve in
Come to understand self in terms of globally
Build ability to learn from diverse others.
Develop deeper awareness of sustainability
Life-changing experience personalizes third world
awareness, develops global “ethic of care.”
Malawi is the poorest country in the world, or tied for the poorest.
Devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic; 10 people die every hour.
Life expectancy 38.5 for men, 37 for women.
Yet Malawians remain hard-working and hopeful.
91,000+ children living with
HIV/AIDS, ½ million orphaned.
Malawi’s universal public education
initiative started only in 1994.
Few schools and teachers.
Many schools still under the trees.
Because teachers are in short supply, some have little
more than a Standard 8 education, themselves.
Their pupils must pass high-stakes tests at the end of
every Standard in order to continue in school.
Typically one textbook for every 5-6 pupils.
Most lack paper or pencil, pen. Class size 100+.
In summer 2009 teachers told about the need for classes
in Literacy in the Mother Tongue.
LMT was mandated, but no teacher training was available.
17 languages spoken in Malawi, 3 in the Southern
Region where we work.
Schooling in ChiChewa & English (2 national
Standards 1-4 taught in ChiChewa, English taught
as 2nd language.
Standards 5-8 taught in English, all tests in
Children who come to speaking Yao or Ngoni
cannot understand the language of instruction,
lack a “bridge language” to English.
Desperate need for Literacy in the Mother Tongue
leaves many learners striving with little to latch onto.
Teachers assessed LMT needs & co-planned for
summers 2010-11. Chifundo Ziaya, Miriam Sherrif &
Liveness Mwanza formed the school planning team.
Rotary Clubs in the Carolina Piedmont
agreed to fund the LMT Project.
The LMT class brings 100% of teachers,
administrators from 3 schools. Joy is the word.
Across the month, university students, faculty
assist in everything from book selection to book-
making to strategies for translating.
Teachers translate commercial big
books into needed local languages.
Lucy Kapenuka designs 3-language puzzles for
Std. 1 children using TALULAR materials.
Yao speakers are at a premium:
teachers value each other in new ways.
Student Michele Delgado “scribes”
translations as a blind teacher dictates.
Gift Kawiza crafts a bilingual
Here’s the Yao.
It takes a global village, but the LMT project
is launched, to be continued summer 2011.
However, just as we approach the top of
one mountain, we acquire the vista
of all the mountains to come. . .
• Teachers asked: Could we help them start a child feeding program at a 2nd
site, Domasi Demonstration School, just for the starvation months?
We want our projects to be sustainable . . .
• In 2009-10, children at Malemia School grew maize to
provide 60% of what was needed to cover their child
feeding program, and are working toward 100%
• Teachers at Domasi Demonstration School want to start
2 projects to help work toward making their starvation
months feeding program sustainable:
1- Raising chickens, both for eggs and roasters.
2- Sewing and selling school uniforms.
Farming, raising chickens & sewing are all part of the Malawian curriculum from
Std. 1-8. If the kids kept the accounts for both projects, would they be better
prepared as entrepreneurs after Std. 8, when most end their formal schooling?
Now we are seeking a chickens
person, a sewing person, for 2011.
What’s all this got to do with
• There is a compelling need for leader development in
• We watch students emerge as different kinds of people –
as leaders with a “global ethic of care” who will engage
the world differently.
• We are learning that PAR is a powerful way to scaffold
leaders in a developing country: Gift, Chipo, Ruth,
Limbani, Hampton, Chifundo, Miriam, Liveness . . .
• We are learning that little is known in the literature about
leadership in Africa, a continent of microcultures.
• We are learning some the mythologies that undergird the
many cultures in Malawi – 17 different languages &
ethnicities, just in this one country.
• We continue our work every summer.
• Hunt partners and grants to leverage all
the engagement that we can for our
friends in Malawi.
• Take people with us – in every sense of
• Write and represent as widely as we can.
• Contribute to the knowledge base by doing
work that is immediately helpful.
We hope we have done well.
Lives depend on it.