SIAB Mozambique training mission 3

Texts by Linda O'Sullivan and N. Miguel Seabra. 

DAY ONE - Wednesday, 1st April 2014

By Linda O'Sullivan

Paulo our driver picks us up early from our hotel in Maputo for the drive to Matola.  Just as well, as the traffic at rush hour is intense, and it takes us an hour to reach our destination; the teacher training centre of IFEA (the Institute for Adult Learning).  Rosalina the director of IFEA is there to greet us with her broad welcoming smile.  Rosalina has been with us the whole way through the programme, and has attended each training session, each time developing her own skills as well as supporting and encouraging the learning of others.  It is wonderful to visit Rosalina in her training school and see the beautiful location where she runs such a great operation.  


It is a small group this morning, the people who are responsible for the long term development and sustainability of the programme; Ernesto who will be responsible for managing the iPads and their storage from the Mac Mini, Veronica and Cecilia, who will be running teaching training programmes, and of course Rosalina, who will oversee the implementation of the programme.

The focus of the next two days training is to examine how the school in a box tool can be integrated into the adult literacy classes in a blended approach, that will localize and best accelerate learning and engagement.  The teachers use two books at the moment, one for literacy and one for numeracy.

Using a flipped classroom approach, Miguel works with Rosalina and the others to define areas of particular difficulty to teach and learn in the curriculum.  He demonstrates with an example on Keynote app, of a numeracy class, developed around photographs from the Maputo Fish Market using everyday objects; fish, buckets, etc.; to optimise the leaning process. In other words, in a real scenario using normal objects the teacher can easily explain a mathematical ‘abstract’ process. 


An example identified, as a particular area of difficulty for both teachers and students is addition and subtraction of numbers larger than 10, where units and tens have to be managed.  This obviously becomes more challenging when it comes to multiplication and division.  As adult literacy teachers generally receive very limited training, and no ongoing training, they can be left to struggle with difficult topics on their own. 

Using Mathboard app, the teachers set lessons and problems that Mathboard then provided a consistent process for solving. The teachers are very excited and animated about the potential of the Mathboard app.  One of the teachers proclaims that she has just realized that she has been teaching this process in the wrong way for 30 years. 


Previously, while very excited about the iPads and how quickly they learn to use them, the question has always been; what do we do now?  Are we to change everything we do? How does this change our teaching?  So today our work focuses on lesson plans and challenging elements within these.  The teachers start to really understand where the iPads and different apps as well as prepared content fits into lesson preparation.  They focus on where understanding and learning can be deepened, and approached in a more problem solving, discovery based way than the usual reliance on rote learning.  They also understand how challenging areas of learning which often through confusion and lack of understanding, cause drop out from the classes, can be made engaging and relevant, with a blended approach using the textbook, traditional blackboard and enhanced with apps such as Mathboard and prepared interactive material using photos and video of real life examples on apps such as Explain Everything, or Keynote.

Today feels like it has been a breakthrough day, and optimism is high for tomorrow.



DAY two - Thursday, 2nd April 2014

By Linda O'Sullivan

Today is hot hot hot, and the traffic seems to be even worse. We have some more IFEA people joining the group today.  As a real life literacy class, taught by Veronica, will be starting in the hut next door at 12pm, the decision is made to prepare a class on another difficult curriculum topic to then deliver to the class live. 

The group again reviews the books, and then go outside to photograph and film content to use in the class.  While the group left behind busily work preparing content, the scouting group go missing for what seems like an age, and despite our best efforts we can’t seem to find them.  When they finally return with their raw footage, they seem excited with the results of their expedition, and work on iMovie and keynote apps, editing and importing footage and images. 


Part of the curriculum for adult literacy classes focuses on life skills and essential health literacy.  With Ernesto’s help, Veronica teaches the prepared class, integrating footage of stagnant water and rubbish, with a lesson on cholera and malaria prevention.  They have also filmed the queues outside the local hospital where malaria & cholera are treated (explaining why they were missing for so long!) to drive the message home, in terms of consequences of not taking adequate precautions.   The video forms the basis for an in-depth discussion on the topics.   


This is ongoing as I have to leave, while Miguel continues working with the group for the afternoon excelling the use of SIAB-IADT kit, working with other localized Numeracy and Literacy curriculum based examples. In an intense brainstorming we rapidly understood the pedagogical approach. This is a major step towards SIAB-IADT didactic sustainability.  Reflexivity is the key. Facing a learning/teaching challenge we can now design a powerful localized learning environment with SIAB IADT singularities. Now, we need to test this approach next day with the ‘Alfabetizadores’, the teachers that are using SIAB-IADT in their classes.


An Irish film crew, from a programme called Nationwide are doing an item on Irish Mozambican relations, and want to see School in a Box in action.  We drive another hour further inland to get to the school.  It gets hotter and hotter the further inland we go.  We pass miles and miles of markets on the side of the road. Everyone in this country is busy selling anything they can lay their hands on.  Beautiful children walk home from school in their school uniforms.

Our road turns into a dirt track and then a field.  We struggle to see where we could possibly be going to, when suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, we lay eyes on an oasis of ordered educational tranquility.  This school is run by Spanish nuns, and is pristine.  Children dressed in immaculate uniforms are resting in shaded huts, while three younger children sit at a table playing with a doll and doctor’s set.  We find out later that it is the first time these children have ever seen a doll.  The Spanish nun we speak with explains that the children always have the same startled, frightened reaction the first time they see a doll, but quickly get over their fears and learn to role play with the toy. 

Coming towards us on the path we see Lourdes and Cristina, two of our literacy teachers from our last trip.  We hadn’t known in advance which of our teachers would be here.  I am not entirely sure what to expect when we go into the classroom, as I remember both Lourdes and Cristina as very shy and quiet from our training sessions.  Cristina ushers us into a packed classroom and she sets up the School in a Box kit while Ken, the Irish cameraman sets up his camera.

Cristina has prepared a lesson on Explain everything.  It is a literacy lesson, building from letters, through words to sentences and finally to a song, which they sing.  Students come up to the board and the iPad to interact with the lesson.  While these are adult literacy classes, the average age is 13, and participants seem to range from around 10 years old, to one quite elderly looking woman.  In between, the majority are women, many with babies on their backs.

The cameraman asks if for the sake of a tight shooting schedule and visual variety if they can also see another app in use, so I ask Cristina if she could teach something using Human Body app, as visually it is so engaging.   She demonstrates a lesson on the respiratory system from the Human Body app with great confidence and ease, her students mesmerized.

I find out the following day, that this same Cristina, is the technological geek (in the best possible sense) of the teachers and she takes over from Miguel at a certain point to illustrate a technical issue to the rest of the literacy teachers.

It is very difficult getting back to Maputo on Thursday, as there is an accident on the road, and we drive through flooded back roads to get back to the hotel.  On Thursday night the skies open up with dramatic lightening, before emptying their contents on the city.  The roads turn to slushy mud, but it breaks the suffocating heat.



DAY TREE - Friday, 3rd April 2014

By Linda O'Sullivan 

Today I have meetings in Maputo, and won’t be able to make it to Matola. I am very disappointed not to be able to see the Adult literacy teachers again, but I know that it is really Miguel they want to see. 

By N. Miguel Seabra

After two intense days, I was exited to meet my students and ‘teachers’ again. Yes, I also consider them my teachers. One key aspect of the SIAB-IADT project for me is the thought of  ‘learning how to learn’. Although this might sound like a cliché; I believe, that this posture is one of the secrets that allowed us to achieve these amazing (and realistic) results.

It was time to start our journey to Matola. After another rainy night, Paulo and I knew, that we would have another hard road trip before us. The roads were packed with traffic and after the rain, the normally dry sand-road slowly turned to a muddy, slippery road. The ‘chapas’ (public transportation) were packed with people and big trucks were driving and overtaking fast…we were driving, when suddenly, from one second to the other, I saw one of these big trucks hit the brakes after a speedy start…the muddy roads didn't help. With all control lost, the truck slammed into another truck and truck parts flew everywhere. We were lucky that our car was not hit by one of these flying car parts.

After we calmed down, we finally arrived at IFEA. As always, we were welcomed with smiles and more smiles. I automatically felt at ease and at home!

In groups, our teachers started to arrive. Their punctuality is even better than a Swiss clock.  The teachers welcomed me in their special Mozambican way back, saying 'Estamos juntos' - a special greeting in this amazing country.

Because of last nights rain they had trouble arriving at IFEA and some travelled for hours to arrive in time. Some of the roads turned into large puddles and there weren't enough ‘chapas’ circulating. One of the first teachers I saw was Armando. ‘Bem-vindo de novo’ (welcome back) Mr. Miguel, he said with a huge smile, but the pleasure was all mine.

One after the other, the teachers welcomed me back with their special greeting: ‘vamos aquecer, vamos aquecer, 1, 2, 3…clap, clap, clap, para o Miguel!’…’Muito obrigado’ (thank you so much) I replied greeting them the same way back. We started our training day by sitting down in a circle. Our main goal of the day was to learn as much as we could from their SIAB-IADT implementation experiences. From normal troubleshooting to specific pedagogical uses, everything was covered and discussed and the brainstorming was intense.

Guided by the 'How are you pedagogical using SIAB-IADT in your classes' question the teachers started to share, collaborating in a very intense way. They were amazed about the pedagogical power of SIAB-IADT and quickly our brainstorm showed the same conclusions from the previous days. It was amazing, I knew now that we had achieved a huge milestone!  With such confidence, teacher after teacher showed us how they were using SIAB and how SIAB was so very effective in the most challenging lessons and helped them in getting their message across. The approach was again more of problem solving through a design thinking methodology, which allowed the students a real engagement in the learning process, always with a blended approach using the normal textbook, traditional blackboard and enhanced with iPad apps.

I was speechless (!).

Clearly, they already had designed their personal SIAB-IADT teaching methodology, based specifically on their real, localized needs. Examples and more examples followed, fueled by incredible enthusiasm and eagerness to share results. It was a bit of everything, Math-board mixed with iMovie, Numbers, etc., etc. … They even share how to use the apps in detail. For example, someone asked a question about Explain Everything…and, in a lapse of a second: can I show how, Miguel? Cristina (who works with Lourdes) asked with a big smile! Yes, please: the stage is yours! And, again, I was speechless (!).


During their showing of the best practices using SIAB-IADT, we had a very interesting idea: Rosalina suggested that all teachers should have a ‘Caderno de Planos’ (SIAB-IADT IFEA lessons book). This amazing idea will allow teachers to continuously collaborate and share theirs lessons with IFEA in order to soon collide all and produce a real book about best practices in the SIAB-IADT localized use, applied to real curriculum needs.

I was amazed with the teacher’s commitment and enthusiasm! As a teacher, I knew that this was the breakthrough in the long-term success of the SIAB-IADT IFEA pilot project.

Again, I can only repeat this so much, but it is all about ‘learning how to learn’ in a very inclusive and reflexive way.


After an amazing day filled with learning experiences, the hard part was to say goodbye. But, I know that soon again, we will all meet to celebrate the ongoing success of this unique educational project!

See you all very soon!

Looking forward to continue to learn from all of you!

Best of luck in your so inspiring educational journeys.

With the special greeting: ‘vamos aquecer, vamos aquecer, 1, 2, 3…clap, clap, clap, para o projecto SIAB-IADT!!’’Muito obrigado’ (thank you so much), I am still saying continuously, in behalf of Linda, Philip, Bernie and all the IADT staff: ‘Muito obrigado’ teachers: Lina, Rosalina, Anastácia, David, … and to all of you that made this possible!!

‘Estamos juntos! Até breve!’