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

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



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.



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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.
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

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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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