Mariska Westdijk

My name is Mariska Westdijk. I am an educationalist. Before our departure to Malawi in 2008 I enjoyed working as teacher in primary education in Rotterdam and as education advisor concerning identity topics. I also worked as teacher in secondary education for a short period of time.

In 2006 I facilitated some guest lecturers at the University of Stellenbosch and volunteered in education projects of Victory 4 All in the townships of Jeffreys Bay (South Africa). This period impressed me very much.

In 2007 I was a member of The Third Chamber, a shadow parliament of 120 Dutch and 30 southern members, focusing on improvement of the policies for international development, an initiative of the ‘Nationale Commissie voor international samenwerking en Duurzame Ontwikkeling (NCDO; National Committee for international cooperation and Sustainable Development)’. I wrote the proposal ‘Bursaries for teachers’ and participated in the international project ‘We are all world citizens’, that contains guest lessons and a website.

June 2008 Marcel and I left for northern Malawi via Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) for one year. There I enjoyed working as Continuous Professional Development Facilitator (CPDF) in the districts Rumphi and Mzimba North. In Teacher Development Centres (TDCs) I trained Primary Education Advisors (PEAs) and teachers in management, setting up libraries, English, Mathematics, development and use of teaching and learning materials and identifying and helping learners with special educational needs. Because Marcel and I both had the idea that we were doing useful work and there was more than sufficient to do, we extended our contract in northern Malawi until June 2010.

When the VSO-project in northern Malawi ended, we were offered a new VSO-placement in Salima District in Central Malawi. We accepted this placement to further share our knowledge and skills.

I work in Salima District as Child Friendly Schools Officer (CFSO). This means that I train head teachers, teachers, School Management Committees (SMCs), Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), Mother Groups and village heads of ten primary schools in the characteristics of child Friendly Schools (See Projects; Education).

Because I see that the needs in the ‘field’ are large, I would like to continue and expand my work in Salima District through our own organization Mwanawaleza Limited and in that way continue training and encouraging people. Core themes in the Mwanawaleza Limited Education Programme will be: literacy – learning to read and write -, development and use of teaching and learning resources and community participation. As Mwanawaleza Limited we also would like to continue working together with especially the junior primary schools and together with the parents make sure that also there full primary education becomes reality by constructing new classrooms.

Education is the key to development!

3. Mariska