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McFead Mkandawire’s writing journey

“From each writing workshop, I gained a new skill. Now I can help create books for teachers and learners and my teaching has improved as well,” explained McFead Mkandawire, a teacher from Dedza district.

McFead started teaching eleven years ago. For the last seven years, he has been teaching at Kalinyeke Primary School in Dedza district. This year, he is teaching standard 4 learners, which means he teaches all subjects, including mathematics.

McFead is one of the 50 educators selected by the Malawi Ministry of Education (MoE) to develop new teaching and learning materials for the UK aid-funded National Numeracy Programme (NNP).

He recalls the early stages of his writing journey, “We started with the envisioning workshop in which we discussed what it means to do mathematics and what a new curriculum for lower primary classes might look like. This workshop laid out our pathway.”

Then there was a training workshop to prepare the writing team for the task ahead. “For me, a good start is critical in every process. The presentations prepared me and other team members for the writing task as we exactly knew what to do at every step,” recalls Mkandawire.

After the writers were trained, they embarked on a series of writing workshops. The first three writing workshops focused on the topic, ‘Number, Operations and Relationships’. Participants worked in groups, each with their own facilitator, developing counting, problem solving and manipulating number activities for learners. Each group then reviewed and commented on pages developed by another group. Based on the feedback provided, content on each page was revised and refined and new pages were developed.

In the next three writing workshops, the writing team followed the same process to develop workbook pages for the topics ‘Space and Shape’ (Geometry) and ‘Measurement’.

McFead’s favourite workshops were those that focused on ‘Number, Operations and Relationships’: “There were a lot of tasks involved and I found the developmental trajectory for fractions to be very exciting.”

The writing workshops also served as a platform for professional development as McFead explained: “In college, we did not cover measurement, or space and shape, so the workshops have been useful for me as a teacher. Also, I’ve really come to appreciate my colleagues and the value of teamwork.”

At the end of March 2022, the writing team had completed the final writing workshop on the topic of data handling and developed the first complete drafts of Learner Workbooks for standards 1-4.

This academic year, the Learner Workbooks are being piloted in 200 schools across Malawi. Feedback from teachers, teacher trainers and MoE officials will be collected by the MoE to help improve the Workbooks before they are finalised and distributed to all primary schools in Malawi. So, the writing team, including McFead, will meet a few more times before their task is completed.