A federal grant will help fund a new program at Lakeland College to train 20 teachers from the African nation of Malawi at the master’s degree level, the college in Sheboygan announced Wednesday.

The $880,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development will go toward a $1.2 million program being officially announced in Malawi and the United States this week.

Participants will be current language arts instructors at Malawi’s six teacher training colleges and will study at Lakeland’s main campus in Sheboygan for the master of education (M.Ed.) degree with a focus on early grade reading instruction.


“Lakeland has a proud history of responding to the needs of communities it serves, and we are honored to be given the chance to improve literacy in Malawi through our graduate programs,” Lakeland College President Dan Eck said in prepared remarks. “We are delighted that USAID has entrusted us to partner with them to serve the people of Malawi.”

The first cohort of 10 teachers will arrive in Wisconsin this June. A second cohort of 10 will arrive in June 2015. Coursework in Wisconsin will last 13 months, followed by research activities in Malawi for an additional five months.

After receiving the M.Ed. degree, the graduates will lead efforts in teacher training to improve early grade reading instruction in Malawi’s primary schools.

Lakeland professors Jeff Elzinga and Mehraban Khodavandi will lead the Malawi program. Khodavandi, a professor of education and chair of the college’s education division, noted that while significant education reform has taken place in Malawi during the past decade, an inadequate number of qualified teachers and budget constraints have hampered additional progress.

“Malawi’s current education system emphasizes reading instruction, but most teachers have no specific training in reading pedagogy, and that makes this program even more significant,” Khodavandi said. “This teacher inadequacy is particularly noticeable in the area of reading teachers and reading specialists from the elementary school level through their teacher training colleges.

Raising early grade literacy rates in developing nations is one of the main educational goals worldwide of the United States Agency for International Development.

The Lakeland program will complement a $24 million USAID-sponsored program, the Early Grade Reading Activity already underway in Malawi and coordinated by RTI International from the Durham-Raleigh-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina.

RTI International is one of the largest non-profit organizations providing research and technical services around the world.

Malawi is a country of 17 million people in southeastern Africa. It is the size of Pennsylvania. Nearly 45% of the population is under age 15. Malawi ranks 221 out of 229 countries in the world for per capita GDP/purchasing power at $900 per year, according to the CIA’s World Factbook.

Lakeland College has a long association with enhancing educational efforts in Malawi. From 1999-2012, in another partnership with USAID, Lakeland provided full education scholarships for 55 students from Malawi, giving those students a chance to complete a bachelor’s degree at the Sheboygan campus.

Those Lakeland graduates returned to Malawi and assumed positions as lecturers at the country’s teacher training colleges, instructing thousands of Malawi’s future primary school teachers over the past several years, according to the college.

Many of the Lakeland graduates also went on to receive master’s degrees from universities in Malawi, the U.S., the U.K. and other countries. A few are currently completing doctorate degrees.

Courses in the Lakeland M.Ed. program will be taught by full-time Lakeland faculty members, as well as by adjunct faculty, including certified reading specialists and school administrators from area public school systems, the college announced.

“Training teachers and assisting in areas where there are critical needs are two of the things Lakeland does best,” said Elzinga, a professor of writing at Lakeland, and chair of its general studies division. “I’m thrilled the college will have another opportunity to do both, and assisting with early grade literacy efforts is particularly important.”

Sheboygan County teachers who are interested in obtaining graduate-level education credits and learning more about teaching practices and educational systems in Africa have access to a limited number of places in the courses with the Malawian teachers during the summer, fall and spring terms 2014-’16.

Anyone seeking more information about the Malawi Program should contact Elzinga at 920-565-1281, or email him at elzingaj@lakeland.edu.

 Source:Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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