The idea for M2M-Millstreet to Malawi arose from the clip contained on the Trócaire website relating to the Lenten Campaign 2014 (see links section below). The clip showed students from Mtakataka Secondary School, Malawi asking questions about life in Ireland. Students in Ireland were then invited to respond.
After showing the Transition Year (TY) students the clip, they decided to respond to the questions posed and to ask some of their own. They felt there was an opportunity for opening a line of communication with the students in Malawi so that both groups could learn more about each other and life in each other’s countries. So the hope of the Millstreet Community School students is that they would receive a response from the pupils in Malawi.
English teachers in our school helped the TY’s to revise their questions until they felt they were open ended enough and also rigorous enough to illicit answers beyond the more obvious ones about the weather!
Twenty-six TY students from Millstreet Community School: Eric Barrett, Jodi Barrett, Ellie May Bradley, Emma Browne, Lauren Buicke, Eugenie Byrnes, David Condon, Billy Cronin, Keith Dineen, Andrea Guerin, Sean Guerin, Stefan Healy, Anna Keane, Darren Kiely, Maria lane, James Linehan, Amy McSweeney, Shane McSweeney, Rachel Murphy, Rachel O’Brien, Jason O’Connor, Máire Ellen O’Connor, Timmy O’Keeffe, Shaun O’Sullivan, Thomas Walsh and Klaudia Wojcik
The Transition Years began devising answers to the questions posed by the students from Malawi on 10th March. They then came up with questions to ask of their own and other elements that would form part of the DVD. Filming of the students took place on 3rd and 10th April. Editing was completed by 6th May 2014
3 Big Ideas
- To enable the Millstreet students to become more aware of the challenges facing young people/young adults in Malawi
- To facilitate both sets of students to identify and share common interests and concerns
- To encourage a sense of global interdependence amongst all those involved.
Materials required to carry out this project:
- access to a local filmmaker (who gave his time for free)
- blank DVD’s to make copies of the film made
- resources from the art room for the design of the DVD cover and label for the discs
In general what would be needed to carry out a similar project would be:
- A great stimulus like the one we were able to use from the Trócaire website
- A teacher willing to facilitate the students in formulating their ideas and with an interest in development education issues
- The support of school management both with the practicalities of getting the filming organised and completed, and also in terms of supporting the underlying reasons for making a DVD which encourages global communication
- Someone locally who has expertise in filmmaking, if the skills don’t already exist in the school
- Access to the Trócaire website www.trocaire.org
- A forum where a group of interested students could get together to work out responses, devise questions of their own, and consider what else to include in a DVD.
A guide to the evolution of M2M – Millstreet to Malawi:
- A class of students interested in global justice issues
- A repeated viewing of the film clip from the students in Malawi and a study of the country and the challenges it faces to put the whole activity in context
- A set time each week (80 minutes) for four weeks to study the film from Malawi, discuss responses to the questions asked, reflect on relevant questions to ask in return, and what else to might be included in the DVD to be sent to Malawi
- A chance for the students to reflect on their motivation behind the questions they want to ask the students in Malawi, to avoid asking stereotypical things about life in Africa
- The support of the English department to ensure that the wording of the answers and questions on the ‘script’ are clear and concise
- Finding volunteers willing to speak on camera during the filming
- Finding volunteers willing to type up the script and write out ‘prompt cards’
- Arranging a date, time and venue with the filmmaker for the filming to take place
Case Study: thinking about an international dialogue between two schools and two countries
An aspect of our project that was particularly valuable was the process of working out answers to the questions asked by the students in Malawi and then reaching agreement on the questions to ask in return. Regarding the former, the TY’s had to be encouraged to consider why young people in Malawi might be curious to find out certain things about life in Ireland.
What ideas would they have about a ‘developed’ country that would provoke them to ask about the reasons behind homelessness in Ireland and the opportunities young people in Ireland have of getting involved in politics?
When it came to coming to an agreement as to what questions to ask the Malawian students, our TY’s had to be encouraged to look beyond questions about climate and wildlife. This process ended in them posing questions about education, hopes and aspirations for the future, and perception they felt European countries had of Malawi. Through discussions and sharing ideas the Millstreet students grew in their awareness of the interconnections between themselves and the students in the school in Dedza. Curiosity about each other’s cultures and traditions was mutual, along with sense of looking to the future in terms of formal education and what might follow once it is completed.
An unforeseen aspect of the activity once the students in Millstreet began to consider what form the DVD should take was their desire to highlight the Irish language, traditional music and Gaelic games. There is a strong tradition in all of these in the school and so it came very naturally to the TY’s to include examples of each, along with invitation to the students in Malawi to do likewise in a future should they wish to maintain communication with our school.
The activity also forms part of Millstreet Community School’s growing commitment to development education and the desire to adopt a whole school approach to global justice issues and to encourage a sense of global citizenship within the school community.
On reflection there are aspects that could be improved upon:
- One or two of the questions posed by our students could have been more rigorous in terms of the depth of responses they hoped to get from the Malawian students
- Also, on a practical level, the accents of our students are quite strong and with no subtitles this might have proven to be a problem
- In addition, to avoid only a few confident, strong speakers appearing on the DVD, the responsibility was shared around amongst more of the class. This was great in one way because it facilitated a sense of ownership of the DVD amongst the TY’s, but it did mean that some of the questions asked mightn’t be as comprehensible as they could have been.
With regards to the success of the activity, there are two aspects to this.
One was based on our own students’ reaction to what they were involved in, the other based upon what the students in Malawi learnt from the DVD. To date ‘M2M-Millstreet to Malawi’ has not been sent to Mtakataka Secondary School. Their response to it is eagerly anticipated in Millstreet.
As far as our own students are concerned, the basic aim of replying to the request made by the students in Malawi for young people in Ireland to respond to their questions was achieved successfully.
However, reaching the desired outcome involved a lot of learning experiences for students and staff alike in Millstreet. Students invested much more of themselves, their attitudes, and their culture and traditions in the end than they had anticipated at the start of the process. In that regard, it has proved to be very successful.
Links to the Project Itself”]The DVD has yet to be ‘launched’ and so hasn’t featured in the local press yet, but information about it will be placed on our school website: www.millstreetcommunityschool.ie
Trocaire’s video from the students in Malawi:
Our school is moving towards a whole school approach to development education. We have applied for the first time to WorldWise Global Schools for the academic year 2014/2015 and although ‘M2M – Millstreet to Malawi’ is not linked to this, it has proved to be a great way for our students to relate directly with young people in a developing country – people they can see and engage with, admittedly only through a DVD.
We hope it will not simply be a once-off activity but the start of a broader approach across the year groups in our school to addressing global justice issues in the months and years ahead.