1 University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNITED STATES)
2 Alamance Community College (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 1495-1500
ISBN: 978-84-608-2657-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2015
Location: Seville, Spain
Since 2004 students and faculty from the US have worked with teachers in rural schools in Malawi on participatory action research (PAR) projects to improve learning and trans-global teaching and leadership skill. The challenges to Malawian learners are many. One adult in 5, one child in 10, tests positive for HIV/AIDS. The only current correlate of remaining disease-free is staying in school; however exams taken in English, the costs of school fees, uniforms and supplies, severely restrict access to secondary education. Malawi's universal public education initiative began in 1994; a shortage of schools and institutional support for teachers and teaching prevails. Class size is 100+ per teacher. Learners come to school speaking one of several different languages, while instruction is typically delivered in ChiChewa, with English taught as a second language in Standards 1-4, and all instruction and textbooks in English from Standard 5 on. Hunger keeps children from attending school; older girls miss a week of school each month as they begin cycling. Teachers have little preparation or opportunities for in-service development. School writing materials are nearly non-existent, and textbooks, if available, must be shared across many learners or used by the teacher only. Yet through our collaborations the exam passing rate has steadily risen, more youth attend secondary, girls attend regularly, and more teachers attend college to become teacher trainers.

This trans-global effort is significant for many reasons, but here we focus on its longevity. For us the sustaining factors have been tenacity and trust. Trust is not static; collaborations must be resilient to endure across changes in institutional affiliation, teacher and head teacher changes, economic flux impacting support for education in Malawi as well as donors and travel costs. This paper examines the building and re-building of trust foundational to long-term collaboration. We draw on perspectives of partners including US and Malawian students, educators and administrators involved across time to the present. What does the establishment of cross-cultural trust look like at the micro level of the US university student attempting to carry out a PAR project in the Malawian context? What about the trust between project leaders and a new head teacher, or US-based IRB boards and the Malawian officials who oversee US work in-country?

Our process of working together is guided by models that are relational in philosophical orientation: participatory action research (McIntyre & Lykes, 2004) and indigenous research methods (Chilisa, 2012) that focus on the values, customs, practices and beliefs that undergird learning and teaching. Data include ethnographic interviews and participant observation (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2009), "power sensitive conversations" (Haraway, 1988), oral history (Gluck & Patai, 1991), document and artifact analysis (Potter & Wetherell, 1987), and case analysis (Flyvbjerg, 2011).

The capacity for sustainable responses generated by US based students and faculty working with Malawian change agents is profound. Building cultural competence is step one; the continual and persistent re-building and re-defining of relationships across time is the greater challenge. Our paper outlines the challenges, strategies and accomplishments, with an emphasis on trust and tenacity: two aspects of teaching and learning that unite educators and change agents everywhere
Trust and Tenacity in International Educational Projects.