A Case Study:
This case study charts the way in which ACT has covered, and supported the formation of, a national teacher’s organisation in Malawi. In any such coverage there may be any number of steps that will work, but possibly only a few basic critical issues may be present. The first two steps described involve the establishing of a relationship between the ACT member and those acting together to form, or establish, a Christian teacher’s organisation. The second step involves the way in which the progress of the organisation was observed. In many cases, as this one was, through a succession of visits to encourage activities, and the use of electronic communication – email and social media. The third step will depend on the specific circumstances surrounding each new case, but in my own case has led to involvement and participation in activities surrounding the formation of the organisation.
ACT – Overseas Connections:
It has always been the intention for ACT to support and encourage the formation and maintenance of associations of Christian Teachers in other countries. In the last few years, the Overseas Committee of ACT has set criteria whereby financial support could be given to teachers’ organisations overseas. Such criteria included the necessity for ACT to have an existing relationship with the organisation and the types of activity for which that ACT would be willing to provide financial assistance. The procedure would also lay out how the use of the funds could be verified so as to satisfy both the ACT members and the Charity Commission expectations for how the money could be used. The money in the Overseas Fund should be applied only to organisations whose activities could be verified, and used to support the activities of an established overseas teacher’s organisation.
As the secretary of ACT Overseas Committee it was important for me to establish a model of involvement in the formation and establishment of an association of Christian teachers in another country. As I had already begun work with another charity in Malawi, this seemed like a good place to begin. The purpose for recording this case study would be indicate a way for others, in their attempts to support organisations of teachers overseas or to set a precedent, from which alternative support models might be created.
Step 1 – ETTC Involvement with ACT:
As the secretary of the ACT Overseas Committee I was keen to discover how ACT might support a fledgling organisation in practice. From 2012 I was involved in founding a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called LIVINGWAY EDUCATION (LWE). The purpose of this NGO was to support teachers in general and Christian teachers in particular. During one visit to Malawi I came into contact with Emmanuel Teacher Training College. This is a college with a Christian foundation that includes elements of Christian teaching in the initial teacher training course given to students. In addition to this, they provide a follow-up through a missionary couple, Reinhard and Birgit Fahl, who head the Teacher Support Unit (TSU). As the work with the graduates of the college grew, the TSU appointed regional and district representatives to coordinate activities, hold meetings and forge the alumni into a recognized organisation.
Step 2 – Building the relationship:
During the years that followed our initial contact, a good relationship developed between the TSU and the NGO I had founded in Malawi. I spoke with the TSU leadership about the possibility of involving more than just the teachers who had graduated from the college and discussed the possibility of their helping to create a national association of Christian teachers. While the college remained cautious about over- extending the activities of the alumni, the discussions continued. As the numbers of college alumni grew, and the organisation necessary to run such a group became more complicated, the TSU and ACT spoke more about collaboration and becoming mutually supportive.
The teachers connected to the alumni association were divided into three regional groups. Each region had oversight of a number of districts. Until 2016 the TSU leaders were exercising control but they felt that this leadership should pass over to the Malawian teachers themselves. The first of two meetings were held in 2015 at the LWE site near Chipoka to propose the formation of an official organisation with a nationally recognized constitution.
In the intervening period, the constitution was put together and discussed electronically. The regional coordinators and the leadership of the TSU then attended various meetings to finalize details. The next four meetings were planned for early in the following year (March 3rd-6th 2016). First, a national meeting, at which a written constitution would be ratified and adopted – after which the election of officers would take place. Following the inaugural gathering of all co-coordinators, regional meetings would take place. Here the new executive council, composed of regional coordinators and the elected officers, would be introduced. It was agreed between the TSU and LWE that a conference meeting of the regional and district coordinators could be held at the LWE site near Chipoka. Apart from being the director of LWE, I was also the ACT Overseas secretary, and it was in this capacity that I was invited to address the conference. By allowing me to speak to the delegates as the ACT Overseas Secretary, the TSU was maintaining and strengthening the relationship between the two organisations. It was a privilege to participate in the inaugural activities of the new organisation, observe the ratification of their constitution and confirm the validity of the election of its officers.
Step 3 – Attending the inaugural conference in 2016:
The conference in early 2016 was always going to be an exciting affair. The TSU leadership had been planning it for more than a year and discussed the possible venues with me on my visit in 2015. After a
LIVINGWAY EDUCATION GUEST HOUSE near CHIPOKA
successful meeting with the regional coordinators at the LWE site in 2015, the TSU leadership were moved by the membership to hold the larger conference at the LWE site. Thirty coordinators were expected and almost all of those attended. All at their own expense. This is far from unremarkable. Salaries are low for teachers and transportation for many represented a significant portion of their monthly salary.
LIVINGWAY EDUCATION Guest House and Conference Center
The conference goers were given accommodation at the LWE Guest house, though some delegates were accommodated in tents specially sourced for them. At the time of their arrival the LWE conference facilities were far from being ‘conference ready’ but the delegates appeared not to notice and none offered any complaint. The meetings were held in LWE’s main conference hall, above with the red roof, which had only recently been attached. The doors were still lacking and the kitchen would have to be described as ‘traditional’, but again there was no complaint.
The guest of honour was MacPhereson Jare, the principal of Emmanuel Teacher training College. He was warmly welcomed, along with his wife, and they both gave practical teaching which the delegates would be able to take back to their own districts. This was mainly about the value and practice of Christian principles as well as the way this applied to teaching. He conducted his sessions with candour, humour, visual aids and warmth. He was most ably supported by his wife.
Rev. MacPhereson Jare teaching at LIVINGWAY EDUCATION Conference Center and Guest House 2016
After Rev Jare’s talk, the delegates was able to concentrate on the focal business of the conference. First to ratify the constitution of this new association of Christian teachers – then to elect its officers. The well run conference owed a lot to the previous work by the TSU but it was also clear that the regional representatives were well respected by the other delegates. This could be seen in that the regional leaders were among those proposed for election as officers of the association. While others eventually went on to win the election, the process was peaceful, well ordered and enjoyed by all delegates, nominees and voters. The person who was eventually voted in as president of ETTAA had had to leave the conference early, but he was contacted immediately by phone to be congratulated upon his election. There were speeches and prayers said for the new executive officers after which the newly appointed officers were congratulated by all others going forward to shake their hands (see picture page 6).
Candidates were proposed from the floor of the conference.
Then after agreement had been made as to the method of counting the votes – secret ballot – the delegates cast their votes.
Leaders of the TSU counted the votes while I, as director of LWE, was able to verify that the votes cast were as reported.
After the election the successful candidates were congratulated by the other delegates.
John T.C. Ng’ombe (Central region) Josephine Malikebu (Secretary) Thokozani S. Hara (Northern Region) Welster Sitima (Southern Region) Chimwemwe Tseka (Treasurer) Thokozani Chirwa (President – absent from Photo)
ETTAA Executive Committee
After the elections, I was able to meet with the executive council and outline the way in which ACT may be able to support them in the coming years. One of the questions I asked them was whether they would be prepared to reach out to other Christian teachers in the schools in which their members worked. The executive agreed that this is what they hoped to do. We have made some informal arrangements for communication and I was able to supply the executive council with application forms for them to use when they require funding for future conference activities. They had already made one ‘friend’ in LWE, now I was able to offer them support from the UK Association of Christian Teachers (ACT).
It was also important for me to make arrangements to support their own communication one with another. The issue of air-time was discussed at the conference. Low salaries and huge distances are going to make the executive’s job of keeping in touch with one another difficult enough. I arranged with the TSU for each of the executive council to have money for air time. It was a small gesture but one that I am sure was greatly appreciated.
ACT Overseas Secretary Address: ABC – ACTING & BEING CHRISTIAN
One of the great privileges of the conference for me was to address the delegates, not as the director of the facility in which the conference was being held, but as the secretary of the Overseas Committee of the Association of Christian Teachers in the UK.
There were many things I wanted to say, and many things that could have been said, but when it came for my turn to speak I only really wanted to encourage their new association.
Delegates of ETTAA consider their new association during the 2016ETTAA Conference
The peaceful surroundings of the LWE site helped delegates both to relax and to enjoy the task they had set themselves.
After the conference there was the necessity to record for all time the auspicious beginning of ETTAA
I explained a little of who I was and what I believed God had given me to do. That I was privileged to be a director of LWE and ACT. This was not really so necessary, but, without knowledge of one another how can we truly say that we have a relationship?
I wanted to talk about the qualities of the Christian teacher who was bringing a spiritual element into the classroom – and how this was necessary if the children were to consider spirituality an important dimension to their learning. However I am not sure how well this was conveyed to the conference.
I also wanted to point out the difficulty we face with the many different belief systems that exist today. I wanted to say something like this: “Look to see how you can encourage learning in others, without oppressing, without belittling and without assumptions of superiority. What we learn today we may have to unlearn tomorrow, and when we guide another we must acknowledge our weaknesses”. It may not have come across in this way but it was my intention. We all need to approach the task of teaching with humility and respect for the view of another – even if that other is only a very small child. I considered how we all need humility in this journey and we need stamina. We need agility and flexibility because we will need to grow into wisdom. We are not there yet. I wondered how we can be so many things to those we have had entrusted to us.
The rest of the message can be found in the Appendix to this paper. It was a wonderful opportunity to address the conference in the name of ACT. Another time we can support and encourage them some more. For now, it was enough just to be there and feel their excitement at becoming a new and fully fledged organisation.
This case study introduces the way in which I, as an ACT member, was able to participate in the formation of an association of Christian teachers in Malawi in three basic steps. It is not a finished story and there is much more to come. While there is a now national organisation (ETTAA) it still only accepts members from the alumni of Emmanuel Teacher Training College. However it will be seeking to support other Christian teachers, and in time it will, I believe, see the need to formalize that support. While some financial commitment has been required, and will be required in the future, the experience for this observer has been very rewarding and has encouraged me to think that the new association will soon be reaching out to many other Christian teachers to support and confirm the calling they have to teach.
Making contact with teachers overseas, and being able to observe the steps they have taken towards becoming a national organisation, has been a privilege by itself, being able to participate in that process has been beyond special. I hope to continue building relationships with this new organisation and trust that ACT and LWE will be able to rejoice together as it grows. It is hoped that this article will encourage others to tread the same path as they seek out teachers groups overseas. The ACT board of trustees would be interested to hear from those whose contacts might lead them to a similar position to the one described above.
A talk given at the inaugural meeting of Emmanuel Teacher Training Alumni Association
at the LIVINGWAY EDUCATION site at Chitipi on Saturday 5th March 2016
ABC – ACTING & BEING CHRISTIAN
After introductions and some explanation of who I was (Director of LWE and Overseas Secretary of ACT) and where I was coming from, I spoke about the qualities of the Christian teacher who was bringing a spiritual element into the classroom – and how this was necessary if the children were to consider spirituality an important dimension to their learning.
During the opening remarks, I pointed out the difficulties we face with the many different belief systems that exist today. I said something like this: “Look to see how you can encourage learning in others, without oppressing, without belittling and without assumptions of superiority. What we learn today we may have to unlearn tomorrow, and when we guide another we must acknowledge our weaknesses”. It may not have come across in this way, but it was my intention.
We all need to approach the task of teaching with humility and respect the view of another – even if that other is only a very small child. I considered how we all need humility in this journey and we need stamina. We need agility and flexibility because we will need to grow into wisdom. We are not there yet. I wondered how we can be so many things to those we have had entrusted to us.
What is empowering is that we are not alone. We can, and should, turn to Jesus every day, even acknowledging his presence every moment, with us, in us and sharing our experience.
It is the duty of one who is mature to reach out and be a Jesus with skin, offering a hand to the one who is hurting. I wanted to ask if the delegates could be such a one, an ambassador to the hurting lonely and abandoned. I wanted to ask them if they would bring Christ’s healing to those whose faith was sinking in the mire of the world’s depravity. Could they reach out and show to others that they are not alone? If they can – then stand with them and pray with them.
Perhaps that was the message they heard – I hope so.
I asked: Can you be that one?
Perhaps if you are infused with His Spirit, empowered by His grace and living the life that was exemplified by the One who went to the cross – you can. The One who suffered loss of all things that He might win us. That He might win us so that He could then send us out into the world to rescue – as if from the flames – those who would hear His word. His strength remains for those who accept Him – we need not be afraid. Are you that one?
The message was not just for those present but also for those whom God would place next to them in the future.
You have a message for those who are still struggling with this idea. Those who are only in the classroom because they didn’t find a better job with more money. Those who wanted to have power over others, those who felt that God would bless them so long as they don’t cheat, so long as they are not immoral, steal or swear, Being a Christian teacher, is not the same as being a teacher who is Christian.
It is very different. The teacher who is a Christian may not have that understanding of calling. The Christian teacher knows they are called to teach.
Your Christian teacher friends, in the schools you work in, may not have the understanding that they are to LISTEN to the direction that God wants their lives to go. They may still be thinking that God will just bless them whatever they do so long as they go to church, or maybe read the bible, or say a prayer or two.
The teacher who is a Christian, may still be running from the calling that God would place into their life.
Or they may just be a new Christian.
Or they may be a Christian who is still coming to terms with the idea of mission, of calling and service from the heart.
Or they may be learning and looking for one who is now following their Lord that they might take advantage of the example.
Be that example.
Maybe you do not have to preach to them. Maybe you will just quietly follow the Lord and be an ambassador of Christ in the school.
You will not be quarrelsome. You will not speak badly of the children, of the parents of the head-teacher. You will demonstrate the love which God lavishes upon you, in the classroom, on the road, in town in the village – wherever! Daily drawing down the love, patience, kindness and longsuffering necessary.
Impossible! Cannot be done. We’re only human.
But His grace is sufficient not only to lift you up when you fall but also to restore you.
Acknowledge your fault.
Acknowledge your weakness.
Become the vulnerable one, the learner and the disciple.
That is all we are. Learning the path that we might show it to others.
Before you stand the many who have been trained in all the world’s ways. They have been shown how to bring a lesson, to follow a set of instructions. Remember the effect of the letter – it kills. You have the word of life in you – and that will give life.
When you read the lesson instruction, bring it before the Lord and ask that He might inhabit your words before the children, before the others in the school, before the parents. Trust Him. He will give you the right words.
He will give you what they need to hear. It is His voice they need to hear.
They stand and then fall because there is not a one to stand by them. They are alone. Be their friend.
This is a part of the message that you may have to give.
Much of this is what I felt God would have had me say to the teachers of ETTAA. Some of this message was given but I was relying on the Holy Spirit to guide and lead me in the words I brought to this conference. Some of these words the Holy Spirit guided me to speak – others He left for me to use another time.
At the end of the session we had become better friends and I trust that the Lord’s word reached those for whom it was intended.
It was a wonderful opportunity to address the conference in the name of ACT. Another time we can support and encourage them some more. For now it was enough just to be there and feel their excitement at becoming a new and fully fledged organisation.
It is hoped that the new executive committee of ETTAA will take advantage of ACT’s offer of help, and will communicate some of their needs to ACT through the application form I left with them. There will be many times when planning will be difficult, especially if they have to use their own money to get together. They are living considerable distances away from one another. Even communicating via text and mobile telephone will be a challenge. They also need to consider how they are going to continue meeting. Will they be able to afford the cost of running regional and national conferences? It is my hope that this young organisation will look to ACT as a friend they can turn to for advice and support. First in prayer, then also in material support that will enable them to carry out their calling. It was good to get to know some of them on this occasion. I pray that it will be the way both remember the start of a fruitful relationship.
ACT Overseas Secretary & LWE Director