Preparing the land for vegetables to be served to the learners
Students help raise a family of goats
We have two cows
I should have given this information earlier.
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!