Worcester Lecturer Helping to Develop Education in Malawi

A University of Worcester lecturer has been putting his expertise in teacher education in Africa to good use this summer, by taking part in a project to support inclusive education in Malawi.

Gareth Dart, Course Leader for Education Studies, travelled to the small East African nation to work on a project led by Coventry University’s Dr Patricia Lund, which focuses on education of students with albinism.

Having carried out previous research into the subject in Botswana, Mr Dart was invited to work alongside Dr Lund – who set up the project in 2012 with funding from Sightsavers – and The Albino Association of Malawi (TAAM).

“The project has two main aims,” Mr Dart explains. “The first is to encourage children with albinism to enrol in schools, and to support their educational progress through a short message service (SMS) via their headteachers, teachers and parents.”

“Through this service, we aim to both track their progress and relay short informational messages to support this group – for example, to make sure that they are wearing protective hats and clothing.”

He continues: “The second objective was to conduct face to face workshops at teacher training colleges for specialists involved in Special Educational Needs (SEN), designed to integrate ways of supporting children and young people with albinism in the areas of identification, early childhood education and low vision.

“This will lead to changes to the manual of instruction used at the colleges to ensure the study of albinism is embedded in SEN training in the future.”

Albinism – a genetic deficiency caused by a lack of the skin pigment, melanin – is commonly and sometimes dangerously misunderstood in some cultures, and one of the key overall goals of this project is to raise awareness of the facts around the condition.

Mr Dart adds: “A strength of the project is its link with local groups involved in educating and informing the community around medical and social issues regarding the condition.

“To further enhance the knowledge and skills of teacher educators and teachers the project has, in conjunction with local script writers, developed a radio drama about the experience of a school girl with albinism which will be broadcast on national radio stations.

“Responses to the broadcast will be captured via SMS responses.”

Mr Dart describes his visit to Malawi as ‘very positive’ – local partners will now maintain the initiative through the academic year before Mr Dart and Dr Lund return in 2014, when they also plan to adapt the project for Zambian schools.