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Malawi educators get firsthand experience of Northeast

Malawi educators get firsthand experience of Northeast

NORFOLK, NE – Two members of the staff of Norfolk Schools in Malawi have had the opportunity to become acquainted with the American education system. Their time this summer in the United States allowed them to gain a better perspective on how to prepare their pupils for the rigors of college now that many of their graduates are attending Northeast Community College.

Elikani Chiingeni, school manager, and Janet Mapira, language arts teacher, spent a month in Norfolk taking the course, American Education in History and Practice, which gave them an overview of education in the United States through its history, philosophy, finance and governance.

Chiingeni described their time at Northeast as “exciting.”

“The people we have been able to interact with have been very open as they shared with us the history and the background of the college. We appreciate the way they have been supporting Norfolk Schools in Malawi; and it is good to learn what they are expecting from us as to how we are preparing the students to come and study at the college.”

This is the second year that Northeast Community College has accepted high school graduates from Norfolk Schools in Malawi, which was founded in the city of Blantyre by Dr. Joe Mtika, of Norfolk, NE. In the 2018-19 academic year, 12 students from the school attended Northeast. This fall, two more Norfolk School in Malawi graduates are attending Northeast. The new students live with host families in the Norfolk area.

American Education in History and Practice was a three-credit course designed to teach Chiingeni and Mapira what their graduates need to be aware of in order to be successful when they come to study in America, such as course types, technology, expectations, norms, and study habits. Each had a text to read and assignments to complete similar to their students coming from Malawi. 

It has also been exciting in such a way that the faculty and people we have spoken with are free and open to learn from us on how we do our things in Malawi,” Chiingeni said. “I have also been working specifically for them to understand what it is that we do at our school, how many students we have and what the life of the student is like and what is expected of them, as well as curriculum, number of teachers and what are some of the challenges our teachers experience.”

Mapira said the course has opened her eyes as to how the American education system functions.

“The efficiency and management of the education system here and how the resources here are efficiently used and how they benefit students is something I have learned about. (Public) schools here are not centered toward profit; it is more like a service that they provide to the community. It is something to learn from and to bring home.” 

Lisa Guenther, early childhood education instructor at Northeast, taught the course. In addition to regular course work, she said she was pleased to have so many guest lecturers present information to the Malawian educators.

“This course was exciting because of the warm welcome we have received and observing the educational opportunities we have in Norfolk and the area. It is also another example of a cultural exchange by sharing these educator’s lives and helping them share America’s culture with their students in Malawi who will all hopefully attend Northeast Community College.”

Chiingeni and Mapira heard from administrators and others representing the Norfolk Public School District, Norfolk Catholic Schools, homeschool representatives, Norfolk Public Library, Wayne State College and Northeast Community College.

John Blaylock, executive vice president at Northeast, complemented the graduates of Norfolk Schools in Malawi who have attended Northeast. He said it is a testament to their preparation back home.

“They are doing great academically, they are a joy to visit with and they’re so happy and so appreciative of the opportunity to come to Northeast Community College. We are also grateful that Elikani and Janet came here to learn more about our education system in the United States and for the work they have done themselves in the classroom.”  

Away from their studies, Chiingeni and Mapira also had other experiences as it was the first trip to the United States for both. This included additional trips to Omaha, Yankton, SD, and the Ashfall Fossil Beds, near Royal, among others.

“Most every person I have met, they are receptive,” Chiingeni said. “You can feel the love and feel that you have been welcomed. They want to treat you like you are honored and respected in the way you are treated.”

Mapira said she enjoyed the environment at Northeast.

“It is a warm and welcoming community. Everyone has been so helpful. Many people have taken us around to give us a firsthand experience of Northeast and that will allow us to properly explain to students what they can expect when they come here.”

In addition to Guenther’s course, the Malawian educators sat in on a summer general biology class, taught by Suzanne Foley, and attended Northeast’s adjunct faculty in-service day. Like their students, Chiingeni and Mapira stayed with host families while in Norfolk. They each received certificates at the conclusion of the course.

Guenther said she enjoyed teaching the pair of educators.

“In some ways I feel I have learned more from them than they have learned in this course. It is exciting to continue to learn and help someone else learn to become a well-rounded, happy individual. Hopefully this course can accomplish that for Janet and Elikani and their future students coming to Northeast Community College,” Guenther said. “Northeast Community College’s mission is dedicated to the success of students and the region it serves. This course is another example of striving to meet that mission, helping all students be successful.”




PHOTO ID: (From left) Lisa Guenther, Janet Mapira, Elikani Chiingeni, and John Blaylock.