By Duncan Mlanjira
Due to closure of learning institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mini-Me Montessori School in Blantyre diverted to electronic learning that involved learners from toddlers of 2 years old to those in full primary classes up to 12 years old.
In between the school also initiated a discovery learning competition in which the learners were assigned to work on a project in order to instil the love of learning and discovery.
The project — named ‘Multi-Cultural Project 2020 Competition’ — was meant to make learning interesting and enjoyable for the young minds to while the time away profitably as they observed the COVID-19’Stay at Home’ preventive measure.
“All our learners were assigned to create a project to discover different cultures across the world,” said the school’s director, Marcela Lobo.
“The project was based on critical thinking, creativity, understanding and interest in different cultures across the world and to stimulate our learners’ brains, they had the choice to pick a country of their choice.
“They were assigned to research everything they could from population, flags, staple foods, sports, culture, languages, race, currency, climate, location etc.”
She said the competition consisted of 3 prizes to the most creative project that included 10% school fees discount for the upcoming academic term; two Milo Waffles to share with a friend or family member and two yummy ice cream from KFC to share with a friend or family member.
Lobo said Mari Beth Sexton, special education coordinator for Phoenix International School with over 30 years of experience, was assigned as judge.
Judgment was based upon the child’s effort, ability, creativity and not any contribution from parents.
“It was an inspiring experience that taught us that education is not only inside a classroom — learning is all around us,” Lobo said.
“We cannot stop educating our learners, we have to play a part in diffent ways of teaching especially during such global crisis.
“Malawi has to be able to take on such challenges in any form possible. We would rather have 30% knowledge acquired and invested in our learners than to have 0% of knowledge.
“I urge my fellow educators, parents and everyone to play a part in educating our children in any form possible to avoid negativity in our amazing children.
“Learning gives creativity, creativity leads to thinking, thinking provides knowledge and knowledge make us great.
“Children get stressed and scared more than we can imagine, they need a support structure and together we can make a huge difference,” she said.
The judge Beth Sexton said it had been a great honour and a huge privilege to judge all the amazing cultural work done by the children”.
“It was such a joy to see all their work and effort. Mini-Me Montessori school achieved the unexpected.
“It was a huge challenge but it was a job well done,” she said.
The school’s director Lobo said nowadays young learners across the world own smartphones that enables them to begin e-learning at a younger age.
“E-learning includes all types of learning that use electronic and digital media for all forms of learning materials and in addition, they often include platforms on which teachers and learners can communicate with each other online.
“This is often done through chats, videos, documents, pictures and slide shows among others apps.”
She took cognizance that some challenges met during the COVID-19 school closure included parents and students not able to have enough gadgets to participate on e-learning.
It also includes high rates on Internet data charges as well as poor network; time management for working parents; students adjusting to e-learning as well as parents struggling financially.
“Mini Me Montessori school focuses on the whole child approach,” Lobo said. “Children have a short concentration span making learning a huge challenge as parents struggled to balance their daily routine.
“Therefore, we made learning fun though our learners are missing school, their teachers and friends. We want our learners back safe once schools re-open,” said the director, whose school is situated in Namiwawa, along Sharpe Road opposite Chilembwe Lodge.
First place list of winners are: Amara Bakuwa, Zinhle Nyirenda, Shaun Chinkhandwe, Eowyn Banya, Hillary Dziwani, Kyle Imedi, Samora Suleman, Azaria Viera, Shaneesa Mitha.
Second place: Ivana Bakolo, Mizuyathu Mauluka, Zarah Chitedze, Michelle Mitedza, Mireille Katunga, Alexander Jere, Mpumulo White.
Third place: Liam Mlute, Shai Mitha, Nabeela Pando, Themba Nyirenda, Andrew Vokhiwa, Eugene Hwayo, Eunice Chitimba.