A Good Time

imageimageimageimageIt’s time to go. It’s a good time to go, I have had a good time, more or less accomplished what I set out to do, and now it’s up to the teachers and administrators to take charge .

This last day was one of song and dance and speeches and gifts and even a slide presentation of the highlights of the last few weeks.

The pictures are of this event. Each class did either a dance or a skit, or both and then the room fairly exploded into dance. Everyone, including yours truly got into the act.

After weeks of work and meetings and planning, today was well earned. The learners love this little school, the teachers and administrators are deservedly proud of the accomplishments. First at the district track meet, excellent state exam results, beautiful arts and crafts,  access to computers and now to library books as well, among other accomplishments.

At the closing dinner of the Rose Charity Conference, Nichole Schouela, the school founder and driving force received the very best possible honour. Rose Charity chose Nicole to receive this year’s award for the accomplishments of StandTall Training Center. Other than the day to day success of our students, there is no better recognition for the excellent work and results of Nicole and Stand Tall.

Thank you for your interest in StandTall

comments are always welcome

 

 

 

 

 

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Ntinda, Kampala

imageimageimageWww.facebook.com/standtalleducation
Visit this Facebook page for more information and pictures about StandTall Training Center.

Ntinda, in the northern sector of Kampala is where I rent the apartment I share with two other Vancouverites, both women are connected with Stand Tall Training Center and with Rose Charities, the Canadian umbrella organization under which our school operates.

If you choose to donate to Stand Tall, Rose Charities issues you an immediate CRA tax receipt, a most important consideration for donors to Stand Tall.

All these pictures are in Ntinda, my home for the moment.

Friday, April 15, is a very important day for Rose Charities, it’s the day of the annual conference, this year taking place right here in downtown Kampala. At the time of writing, the one day conference is fully subscribed. Good news, indeed.

This blog is not intended to be a travelogue, other sites do a good job on that topic, but yet, I think it is time to show you the world that I see every day as I go back and forth to Stand Tall and to the local shops.

Here then are pictures of fruit bearing trees (The papaya caught my eye. Can you believe the size of this fruit!) a small banana plantation, a red dirt road leading to a small group of On a walk near my house, giant palms, imageb image

And the stunning flowers at the beginning of this blog.

Thank  you for joining me on this journey. Comments are always welcome.

 

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National Library Week at StandTall

Look at what I found!imageimageimage

In honour of National Library Week this blog is about how I am working to make library books available to the classes, an approach I call “library skills”.  Getting our small collection of library books out of the book storage room and openly distributed to the students ( under supervision, of course) should be a simple matter but it isn’t. Personal  reading, although known, is not practiced in schools or homes. Remember those country wide exams I mentioned in an earlier  blog, add an economic story that does not include money for extras such as books or newspapers, community libraries. Realistic concerns of time to read, choice of books to read, and purpose for reading anything but an excerpt from a text are also to be considered. With all those ‘walls’, I, with lots of ideas from colleagues ( thank you Claudie) created this plan.

I received a grant from the BC council of the International Literacy Association to buy non-fiction books from Vancouver Kidsbooks. Thank you, Kidsbooks for your school discount. Next I approached a teacher friend I n Vancouver and asked if I could produce a demonstration video of her grade six class browsing through books , talking about books and eventually choosing library books. Lastly, I had the good fortune to be approached by an international student at UBC who needed to fulfill a community service obligation to maintain her scholarship and was keen on helping. Thanks to her and others, I and parental permission too, I brought a 20 minute video of  11 year olds skillfully and comfortably using their school library.

This video became the focus of my meetings with the teachers at Stand Tall. Check out the pictures. Do they not tell a thousand words? Are the students not as focused and as pleased as can be , sortof like kids let loose in a candy shop. Only better.

For some kids, this was their first book ever, but they knew what to do, once I explained that it wasn’t at all necessary to read the publishers information on the inside front page.

The teachers seem very pleased with “library  skills” and are currently making good plans to keep those books moving from clas to class. No more locked up books, the books have been liberated!!

Hope you are enjoying my blog.

comments are welcome

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A baby cow, chickens and the garden

Picnic during regional sports dayimageSpecial dinner to

honour teachers. Deputy head teacher  Kotrida assisting.

Picnic at regional sports day

 

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Hundreds of tiny chickens and student assistants

Never a dull moment at Stand Tall. Can you imagine how exciting it was to arrive in the morning and learn that a baby cow had been born during the night!

i also had time to visit classes these last two days and support the teachers and learners. One time it was addition of six digit numbers, practicing “borrowing” , another  time it was reviewing the value of rivers. At the former lesson I worked outside the classroom, sitting on a cement step, helping one student at a time. The latter lesson, the teacher tried an approach I had talked about at a staff meeting. At the start  the young learners were placed into groups of three, given a single piece of paper and asked to write down every thing they knew about rivers. One person did the writing, the others were expected to offer ideas , and help with spelling. They had exactly five minutes for this activity. Small group work, and student participation is valued but how to go about this approach is not well known and so this class dynamic was a new one for everyone. Yet it was well received by all, and once the kids understood what they were asked to do, they got right into it, to the extent of protesting when the five minutes were up. I read a few examples out loud, which they really seemed to enjoy. Next time I will ask the groups to move their paper around the room so that others can read what they wrote. However, reading other learners’ work is new to all and will take some modeling and explaining the good reasons for sharing.. Next class.

Yesterday was the regional sports day, a much anticipated day for everyone.  I somewhat enjoyed hanging out at the field and cheering on Stand Tall runners and jumpers. Stand Tall athletes did very well  but me, not so great. The heat, around 30 degrees, was seriously above my comfort zone . I try hard to fit in but I am and always will be a mazunga from a cold climate. Uganda is on the equator. Need I say more?

Enjoy the pictures.  Comments are very welcome.

Honey

 

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Tuesday April 5, 2016. Stand Tall Training Center, Kampala, Uganda

 

 

Preparing the land for vegetables to be served to the learners

 

I should have given this information earlier.
Standtalleducation.org
This is a small no-fee and partial-fee school, in the north suburbs of Kampala.
We have 118 students, divided into four groups, from age 8 to 16. The wide range of ages yis a result of big gaps in  education because of civil unrest , no money for school fees, among others.

The school is brand new, built seven years ago, and still growing. Just this past year a new classroom with an adjacent library was built.

The students arrive very early in the morning, some as early as 7:00am    and receive early morning porridge. Later a mid morning  snack, also porridge, is offered. Lunch is also provided. There is simply no doubt that regular nutritious food is important for success in school and everything else too. The change in some children after a few days of regular food is obvious and wonderful to see.

Classes begin at 8:30 and go until 4:30. In addition to the Ugandan curriculum the students have instruction in computers, fine arts, fabric arts, music, dance and sports.

Class size is untypical for Uganda. We have four classes, with a  average size of 33 children. In public schools that number can be as high as 100 or more. In private schools that number is around 80  students in one class!

This  is my third visit in seven years. My volunteer role is to support the child-centered emphasis of this school. Over time I have seen much progress. Teachers, who have had little or no formal training in child- centered teaching have shown interest and enthusiasm in learning more about this approach, with most encouraging results.

Schooling in Uganda is dominated by exams that all children must write at the end of elementary school . Consequently secondary school entrance exam results are very important to what is taught and how it is taught. You would think that our teachers would be controlled by the looming exams;  however, I can happily report that I see a balance of formal teaching alongside cooperative activities and individual and group teaching.

Today, for example, I watched the youngest children browse through brand new non-fiction books that I bought from Vancouver Kidsbooks with money donated by the BC council of the International Literacy Association. Supported by their teacher, the children chose a book, browsed through it, stopping to pay attention to something special to them, and showed these pictures or designs to others. For children who had never before been invited to freely explore any book on the table, this was a remarkable class. For me this was strong evidence of their comfort and trust in their teacher.

Tomorrow I will meet with all the teachers to decide how to best continue this excitement in free reading. What could be better!

 

 

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Day one, two and three

Morning meeting of school

Morning meeting of school

Preparing for track and field events

Preparing for track and field events

Stand Tall graduates attend a Saturday morning meeting

Stand Tall graduates attend a Saturday morning meeting

Day one, a seemingly endless blur of cramped airline seats and long waits at airports. Added to that three hours on the tarmac at Frankfurt airport. Air Sabena planes are now flying out of Frankfurt, and other places, ceonsequently luggage transfers and permission to take off are slow and slower.
Took about thirty long hours to reach Entebbe, but the good news is that my large duffel bag of books and donated backpacks ( see pictures in previous post) arrived and my driver was waiting., at 11:30 pm, three hours late!
I didn’t know what to expect as it has been three years since I left but my first day back at StandTall was better than expected. The teachers were as warm and welcoming as could be, and a few of the older students, or learners as they are called here, remembered me. The school is just as I remember, with the addition of another classroom and a library room that is  sadly locked up. But that’s partly why I am here, to introduce and encourage library skills. More about that later. As well, It’s my hope to help with the literacy program that the headmaster introduced at the beginning of this school term, just a few weeks ago.

Friday morning, sports events in the muddy back field. Uganda sorely and desperately needs rain, so the flooded and muddy  sports field is a source of joy and slippery fun, not an annoyance.

The afternoon was my introduction to the Literacy Program. What happened was not exactly what I would plan but nevertheless, in retrospect, an earnest attempt to get the entire school, all 118 learners ages 8 to  13, more or less, involved in a single literacy class.  The learners were, at the very least, enthusiastic, but I have my doubts if my off the cuff lesson on generating ideas for writing got across to more than a few of the older students, who probably already were comfortable at topic development.  My excuse is that I was exhausted after my  excruciatingly long flight, but truly, is that really an excuse? The best part was the ensuing discussion with the teachers afterwards.  Next time we will break the learners up into small groups. Yes.

Day three.  Saturday morning I met with the graduates, some of them in fourth year high school ( Stand Tall is an elementary school) and the group that will be completing  elementary school at the end of the school year in November. Meeting the young adults who started their schooling at Stand Tall and are now talking about post  -secondary programs made all the difficulties of getting here minor and inconsequential. Hearing their successes and their ambitions was emotional , exciting and truly quite wonderful. Over the years I had wondered what would happen to these kids. Now I have no doubts. They will be lawyers, carpenters, house builders, dressmakers, fashion designers, and anything else they may choose. Stand Tall has given them choice in life, a privilege for few children , but one that is now theirs.

  Nothing more to say now. The success of the learners says it all.

 

 

 

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Non-fiction books, exercise books and backpacks

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Vancouver has responded to my request for non-fiction books, exercise books for writing about the ideas found in the new books and gently used and brand new backpacks for the students. My large duffel bag is full  

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My Third Visit To Uganda

In a few days I will be heading back to Uganda and to Stand Tall School.
I will try to keep my blog up-to-date so that friends and family and others can check in and find out about this wonderful little school in Kampala and other stuff too.
I’ll be in Uganda from March 31 until April 18th.

All comments are much appreciated.

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All Good Things

All Good Things

I have said all along that this is not intended to be travel blog, I really intend for this blog to be a description of my work at Stand Tall; however, I cannot resist a short description of my contrasting worlds in Kampala. Saturday I indulged in a visit to Kabira Country Club, for me a short matatu ( apiblicride away, but a planet away for the regular folks. This is where the muzungus (white folk) go for a swim, work out in the gym, hang out by the pool and order expensive food and drinks. It costs 30,000 Ugandan schillings just to use the gym and the pool, about $12.00 US, a ridiculous amount and well beyond consideration by a population that earns around$100.00 a month.
But it’s a clean and large pool and hardly crowded beyond a few families splashing about, so I have a very happy time swimming my lengths, undisturbed.
This is about the only exercise I get, as it’s simply too hot to walk and there’s no real place to walk in this city as there are few if any sidewalks, no parks, no walking paths, nothing. In fact every time I venture out I have to pay serious attention to traffic that treats you as a nuisance variable as cars and motorcycles need to use your little bit of roadside to avert huge, and I mean huge, potholes in the middle of the road. And when I move over to avoid being run down I risk falling into open ditches, deep holes that are just there, and muddy puddles.
So I have convinced myself that going to Kabira Country Club for a swim about once a week is good mental and physical health.
That was Saturday. On Sunday I had been invited by one of the teachers to attend his church. He promised me singing and dancing and he was right on.
The first 90 minutes was a splendid presentation of different ages singing and dancing, as the congregation, including me, stood and clapped and swayed and just celebrated through voice and movement. The singing, both by individuals and chorus was truly splendid. In a different world this group could have a hit record.
The building was simple, the floor the same compacted red earth that you see everywhere, the walls were various sizes of sheets of corrugated metal, nothing fancy and similar in structure to the homes of most of the Ugandan people.But the welcome was genuine, although many were quite taken aback to see me arrive(I do stand out)all seemed interested and pleased that I was there. There were probably around 30 to 40 people in the congregation.
Twice I was asked to come to the front and talk, the first time I said hello and thanked them for including me in their Sunday service and the second time to talk a little bit about myself and Canada, in particular Canadian churches, all accompanied by simultaneous translation into Luganda. I know practically nothing about Canadian churches so I answered by saying that we have many different cultures and many different churches and that one common thread is that we all believe in the importance of peace. I think I said the right thing as everyone clapped.
Life in Uganda is hard, if you’re not in the Kabira Country Club set, but slowly, and not with the support of the government, change is going to happen. Despite the difficulty of getting running water (very few have it) and electricity,and money to pay for school fees and even shoes, I think that there is a strength and pride in the potential of the children that can only result in positive changes for all, slowly but surely.
I still would like to see more open discussion about family planning, and fewer possibilities of men having 44 children as was the feature article in the local newspaper, but from the little I’ve seen in this past month, woman are getting a stronger voice and men will simply have to learn to live with limitations on their male privileges.
But I still hear disturbing myths that are unquestionably accepted as truth. Just today we had a serious discussion in the staff room about the belief that in Uganda more women are born than boys and so men are doing all those extra women a favour by having many wives. Even after we looked at Government of Uganda statistics that showed that, just like any country in the world, there are an equal number of males and females born, or close to it, I could still see the doubt on faces. The talk then veered toward our students and how good it is that the school encourages questions and the opportunity for all learners to express themselves in different ways.
And that brings me to what’s been going on at StandTall this week. Preparation for the Saturday visit from the delegates to the Rose Charities Conference is in full swing.The entire school is undergoing a very special clean; walls are being covered with examples of student work; beaded jewelry and crafts and tie dyed cloth are displayed. The school will shine.
And that’s only the grounds and building interiors. The students as well will be on display through songs and dances. I could barely squeeze in time during lunch to talk about the organizations of the library books, everyone was coming and going. But people did stop for a few minutes over the beans and rice lunch and I grabbed the opportunity to ask how they would like to distribute the class sets of readers that had been purchased for the school by a previous volunteer.
The pictures I will try and feature are:
….soccer balls and jewelry purchased with money donated by a good friend of mine
…..students writing thank you letters to the grade seven class that donated pencils and mango juice for a special treat
…….. boda boda drivers that I tried to download a few blogs ago

Thank you for joining me as I have sweated for this past month in Kampala,Uganda.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me. I am always interested in your thoughts.

Honey

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A Good Week

A Very Good Week

What a party!

This afternoon was given over to a full scale farewell party for me , even though I’m planning to continue my work at the school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. But the other Canadian volunteer who has been helping the administration apply for grants these last two weeks has come to the end of her stay. She’s staying on in Kampala but all her attention will be given over to the organization of an international conference by Rose Charities of Canada. I find Rose Charities to be an awesome concept and the conference is one of the reasons for the timing of my visit to Stand Tall. If you are curious, just look up Rose Charities online.
On to the farewell festivities. First, a most special lunch for the children, along with a welcome drink of mango juice, a treat donated by the grade seven students in a Vancouver school. They are the very same class that donated pencils for every child in the school. I have excellent pictures but am having trouble getting them downloaded onto this blog. I’ll keep trying as they really do present a better sense of the event than I can with words.
After lunch, the celebration. Everyone gathered in the double classroom, the drums were set up and the deputy principal brought us all to order. Following words of welcome and a prayer the school sang the national anthem and the school anthem. Normally I find these rituals a bit stressful but not this time. The sweetness of the sound of all the children singing together caught me off guard and my eyes actually welled up in response to the beauty of this moment. In retrospect I realized that the children singing as a single entity had become for me an emotional representation of the success of this little school.
Then the dancing began, traditional Luganda dancing, with grass skirts over school uniforms for the girls and over the shoulders of the boys, also in uniform.
Here again I will try and show you my pictures, which I think are pretty telling.
The last part of the event was gift giving, from the school to us, and in return from the other volunteer to the administrators as well as a small gift for every adult in the school community, including kitchen and security staff.
The final part of the program was the distribution of a soda pop to each child.
Just the right finish to a very fine party.

My week of observations of teachers’ child centered lessons and the class library program:
It has been a very good week for me and for the students of Stand Tall. I have observed lessons in every teacher’s class, from the dissection of a chicken’s innards, to the countries of the Nile River, to sweet foods in the Luganda language, to the positive and negative aspects of the Internet, to name a few, and all were conducted with the focus on the learners. Yes, I am pleased with my classroom visits, and equally so with the follow-up conversations at the end of the classes . As a result of the explicit support of the principal, the teaching staff tried new approaches and fortunately, were impressed with the results. At one time or another each teacher said to me how enjoyable it was to see how the children worked together to fill in gaps and create new understandings of the class work. The teachers also let me know that they had been worried that they wouldn’t be permitted to teach content in a child centered class, so when they realized that their input was still a critical part of classroom instruction, they were even more interested in wanting to learn more about this new approach.
I know you are asking what happened to those classroom libraries. As far as I could see each of the four teachers embraced this idea and each class has an active library program. In fact one teacher was so proud of her library program that she chose four students to read a short passage from their books to all of us during the farewell festivities. The enjoyment of recreational books, some as simple as picture books some as complex as nature and science books, has taken hold. I have been arguing for weeks that reading is a right not a privilege, but it was the reassuring voice of the principal at Monday’s lunch hour meeting that did it. Every day this week children have taken books home and returned them as promised the next day! Now that is a clear sign of success.

What more could I ask for? Well, we could have more books and book bags too.

Next week I’ll tell you about how the school is preparing for a visit from the international visitors attending the Rose Charities conference.

Thank you for reading my blog.
Honey

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