“We have some used children's curriculum that we would like to donate to Africa. Can you use them for your Sunday school program there?”
It’s a question we are often asked as we travel to different churches or visit with friends in the US. To be honest, it is a hard question we find to answer. Of course we are so thankful and excited that you want to donate and help. The lack of curriculum and resources is one of the most common challenges that churches struggle with here.
One reason it would not work would be because it is all in English and even though a lot of Malawians speak English, it is not the main and first language of Malawi and most children will not learn it until later in School. So a local teacher would have to translate it.
When we first arrived in Malawi, we rented a room from a government orphanage, so our first church members were about 15 children and 4 adults. We then moved our location across the street where all the children followed so we had to quickly start a Sunday school program.
I had a donated curriculum from the US and was ready to start using it. I opened to the first lesson:
Opening activity: attach a large sheet of paper to the wall. As children enter the classroom, give them crayons and have them draw a mural of all things God created.
Well, we had NO classroom and no walls and no paper and certainly no crayons. A lot of the children were not even going to school at all. We ended up outside, under a tree and we sang some english and chichewa songs and had a story of the creation with a translator.
Most churches have no Sunday school budget, even we didn't at the time and still don’t.
I realized quickly that we couldn't find the right resources and that most of the US curriculum was irrelevant because most of the ideas wouldn't work as written.
And none of it was culturally appropriate either. American curriculums are full of cultural pictures and references. Superheroes, spies, science, circus, adventure sports, all these themes that most children here would not relate too. The curriculum’s application to children's lives in America and the issues the children here are dealing with are very different.
What I have seen as well, is a local teacher using a US curriculum and thinking they will use it and assumes either the Americans will have to provide all the resources like room, paper, crayons, books, chairs, light, in order for them to do the job or they will think without them, they cannot do Sunday school at all.
I know what most people could think: isn't any curriculum better than nothing at all? Very few teachers here are experienced teachers and they wouldn't know what to do with it or how to adapt it. We had one teacher go to teach the 7-9 year old class using his Bible College notes and I was trying to figure out how any of the children could even follow anything.
So what’s the solutions. We bring paper, some craft supplies and even a small table and use an open classroom with no windows or doors and even have a translator.
Now we have started all again; lack of teachers, children not coming consistently, and other factors led us to regroup. My mother in law started teaching a smaller class focusing on the most disruptive, problem children - the 3-4 year olds. It is a total miracle. These misfits would constantly run up and down the aisle making the ushers chase them. Amazingly, they all enjoy the Sunday school and are looking forward to it. Noah woke up saying, “Sunday School, Sunday School with Grandma!”