For 11 years, Jane has taught English in a secondary school located on the edge of Lake Malawi – an area where many people value working in the fishing business over the pursuit of education. Since Malawi has an overall adult literacy rate of just 62%, and is ranked 130th for literacy in the world, many students have difficulty in expressing themselves and struggle with both reading and writing.
In response, Jane founded the Bloomers learning initiative, which is aimed at boosting literacy among primary and secondary school students. Bloomers aims to bring out the best in students by encouraging them to create poetry, essays and short stories. Peer teaching and marking is encouraged, and good creative writers are assigned to mentor others. The initiative also aims to help young local authors bring books to the point of publication and in turn motivate local readers.
Since Malawi declared a state of natural disaster due to COVID-19, the writers’ club has also moved online. The initiative has provided free WhatsApp lessons to 1200 students, particularly targeting those who were sitting examinations and needed extra help. So far, the outcome has translated into an 80% pass rate in target schools – up from the usual rate of around 60% – and the success of the online lessons has been featured by YALI TV Uganda.
In addition to this work, Jane is also a vocal advocate of girls’ rights and education. Due to cultural beliefs and the financial incentives of the dowry system, girls in her area often end up in child marriages. Jane’s Maghemo 1 youth club encourages girls to stay in school by connecting them to outstanding role models who share their success stories – teachers, police officers, soldiers, bankers, nurses and entrepreneurs to mention just a few. As the District Commissioner for the Scout Association of Malawi, she also helps inform youths and students about hygiene practices (as the community is cholera-prone), sexual reproductive health rights, the importance of staying in education, and ending child marriage.
In terms of public recognition, Jane has received an award from 1 Million Teachers as part of the HH MSII SDG Challenge, and is an alumnus of the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) RLSCA (a South African programme funded by the Mandela and Obama funds). She has also been featured by YALI TV Ghana and Arise Africa magazine, and the Malawi Ministry of Education has asked to feature her as an exemplary teacher.
If Jane wins the Global Teacher Prize, she will use the funds to help the Bloomers writers’ club stage more lessons nationwide, help the students publish their books on a wider scale, and pay for laptops, books and computer lessons. The prize money will also help create centres across Malawi that can provide training to teachers on short story writing and modern teaching methodologies.