Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Twambilire Kololokesya
When I came to my site, the first thing I was told was that I needed to help out at the school with English. At the moment their priority problem was that the kids had poor English writing and speaking skills. Once I started interacting with the students I noticed that it was really a problem, so I started helping at the nursery school and teaching English songs and some vocabulary. The impact was good, and kids learned how to introduce themselves in English within a short period of time. However, the problem of poor English skills was not only in kindergarten but also in secondary school. Secondary school students were more scared to speak English than my kindergarteners, so much so that even answering English exam questions was a problem. Since these kids were already learning English in class we had to think about another way for them to improve their English skills.
To solve this issue, and to allow for students to practice their English outside of the classroom, a debate club was suggested. I thought this was a great idea, but the problem was that it was viewed as an extracurricular activity, which are not allowed at this campus. To make the debate club happen we had to have talks with the authorities about how it might benefit the kids to improve their English skills. After these talks, the authorities gave us a chance to start a debate club and see if it really helped the kids. When we started the club, a lot of students were interested and excited about the debate club. A lot of students attended on the first day, on the second meeting the numbers decreased, but now other students have also started coming to join.
At first the kids were having difficulties to discuss a debate topic freely; they were shy and they did not know what to research on a topic. Since then these kids have improved their English greatly, and so far, we have discussed three topics. The students listened to all of the feedback given after the debates and incorporated whatever they were told to do into their other assignments. And they do their best to use the little information they have access to just to make a debate interesting. They have also started showing results of improvement in their critical thinking skills.
It is very pleasing that in a very small amount of time the kids have already started improving. A small thing like a debate club has helped students who were not good at speaking English, who were having problems to research a topic, and were finding it difficult to rebut another team’s point, now do all these things. The kids were not only excited but were determined to benefit from this club and made it worthwhile. We have even chosen leaders in the club who are learning how to lead a debate club after I leave. Their excitement and determination is very encouraging.