Colm McDermott: AKA Maputo Principal Sheds Light on New Academy and Teaching | Aga Khan Academies

Colm McDermott: AKA Maputo Principal Sheds Light on New Academy and Teaching

For Colm McDermott, there’s no such thing as a typical day – and he likes that. He finds satisfaction in work that involves interaction with children and an unpredictable day.

Colm is the Junior School Principal at the Aga Khan Academy, Maputo. Previously, he held similar positions at two other International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme schools in São Paulo, Brazil and Luanda, Angola. 

“It’s not like you sit in the office and do the same thing every day,” he said. “You have no idea what the children are going to bring because they respond differently, and they have such a unique view of the world that you’re constantly learning from them.”

As a principal in Brazil, Colm helped start a school and take it through the IB authorisation process. After seeing an opening at the Academies, he decided that the Academy in Mozambique would be something he’d really enjoy being a part of. He was impressed with the mission and the vision behind the network of Aga Khan Academies.

Due to an initial shortage of teachers, Colm began in Maputo as both a principal and a teacher. He taught the English curriculum for grades two and three. At the Academy, students learn in English one day and in Portuguese the next.

Colm recalls the students' apprehension on the first day of school in August. “Students are often shy on the first day of school,” he said. But these students were especially nervous given that it was also their first day in a brand new school, he said. Everything was new to the students: the environment, the teachers and the other students.

To help boost the students' confidence and make them feel more comfortable in their new surroundings, the teachers planned team-building and orientation exercises. This was an ideal way for students to get to know one another and begin to build the friendships and relationships they would need throughout their time at AKA, Maputo, Colm said.

Reflecting roughly ten weeks after that first day of school, Colm described how rewarding the process – and progress – had been.

“For me, I think the most pleasing thing is that it’s now [the students’] school,” he said. “They’re beginning to take ownership of it, and they’re beginning to take pride in the space as their own.”

“It’s extremely rewarding,” Colm added. “It’s great to see what we are able to achieve, building a world-class school that will provide a world-class education.”

So far, the Aga Khan Academy, Maputo consists of the nursery school with four classrooms, housing students aged five to eight. The second phase of construction is expected to begin late next year with the full campus built by the 2017-2018 academic year. Beyond the campus, students at the Academy will also benefit from belonging to a growing network of schools that is unique in its genre; they will have the opportunity to exchange with other network schools and add a truly international and culturally diverse dimension to their overall learning experience.

Colm has gone back to devoting his time to the role of principal, but he and the teachers have great hopes for the new Academy’s future.

“Our hope is that we will be seen as one of the foremost schools, not only in Mozambique, but in the region,” he said. “And I hope the fact that we’re offering something different in bilingual education will be something that people can look to in the future and see as a model, a progressive model, which can help education move forward within this region.”

By Farah Mohamed


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