Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Different things

I figure that it is important for people to understand and know some of the things that take up our days. I am doing some teaching. My load at the school is probably about 0.25, though of course I am not paid. This has been a great opportunity and I really feel that I know much more about what teaching is about here. The challenges, the things that make it easy and also the fact that due to the numbers a teacher is not accountable for the performance of students. Mainly how a student achieves depends on the teacher covering the whole syllabus and the student being able to learn in a very lecture type of situation. There are not resources to do a lot of things - even looseleaf paper! It is hard to work lunchtime at school
out what to do in some of these situations because I could simply buy the paper but that is not an option for other staff. In fact, I gave a staff member a red pen the other day and they thought I was nice and generous. There isn't a lot of room for students to do things and you need to write only on certain parts of the board otherwise some students cannot read it. Then, there is the challenge of using words that students understand. Or, the fact that students are allowed in all secondary schools to hop up and go for 'a short call' , or a toilet break whenever they like. So many differences, though one of the most challenging is the style of learning inherent within Uganda. Rote learning is a perfected art. You start a sentence and end with what.. and people fill in the gap. There are set answers for things, so much so that often there is only seen to be one correct answer! However, this is not the way the curriculum authorities want things to be. They want students to learn to think, to have solutions to everyday problems and a related understanding. At the present time, the only form of assessment used that I know of in schools that I have connection with is examinations. These are set very much in line with the end of S4 exam or S6 depending on a student's level. Learning is geared for the examinations. One student we know is studying Geography, quite a capable young man. However, he does not really understand why there is day and night, or the difference between the USA and UK. Why? Simply because it is not on the curriculum and there are not other means to learn. That too is such a strange concept, little if no access to reading material, very few homes have power and so even fewer television, and the same with internet access. Internet access even within schools is so so limited. The picture on the right is of the exam room - two classrooms combined.

You can only imagine the challenges I face trying to deal with some things. Yesterday, I spent most of the day getting the school out of a 'little hole'. The printing for exams has previously been completed on an inkjet printer. I offered to print as many as they liked on the laser printer, which I had done. Only on Monday, I still checked how things were going with the exams. Anyway, an urgent call yesterday, the last day of exams...the inkjet printer had failed and they needed to print some exams. We went to the school, discovered that one had not even been properly typed up and others were not printed. We rushed home with the secretary and printed the exam that was meant to be happening then, and one for the middle of the day. She then left and I finished printing the last exam (8 pages for 100 students), which took hours! Our little laser printer struggled at the end but made it through. It is so tempting to go in like a bull at a gate and take over, so daily I pray for wisdom in handling the situation. Planning ahead is not a strong attribute of the people and probably one of my strengths. I am working more with the school and endeavouring to raise finances and partnership for them to assist with future and present development. Plus, of course mark 80 exam papers.
I have met with the director of secondary curriculum of Uganda and he has encouraged me to make further contact but it needed to be now rather than earlier. He is also the specialist in the maths curriculum. I look forward to continued discussions with him and being of some assistance there. He gave us a very warm reception and I think having someone who has experience, knowledge and understanding of the Ugandan situation is helpful.
The children and mothers at the village continue to be a high priority including helping Robert and Millie as they take on the role of village managers. Last week I worked with some children making shorts as they needed some for a netball game. The girls did a great job, despite limited time to make shorts and so there are other children wanting to learn to sew. Then, this week I took on the challenge of starting to teach children to knit. That was fun, and exhausting! Aunt Anne could be heard right through the room. Fortunately, one of the children had picked it up well and she became a 'second Aunt Anne'. Now, I am trying to work on a bit of a program for the school holidays to assist the children with their school work, provide activities and generally make the holidays good, productive and happy times. We will be away for three weeks, so it is important that there are things that can be done that mean the holidays are not too onerous on Robert, Millie and the mothers.
Ron, in the meantime continues to mainly be busy with the building. The sixth house now has a roof. He put the trusses up with some workers and extra rafters. I do not like to think of the number of times he has been up on the roofs of houses, though he is lighter and I suspect more agile than when we came! The kitchen between these two houses is on its way. Then, there is the food shopping - he introduced Robert to this, this week. He also has to go and get the extra roofing nails or the building supplies - it used to be a daily event getting cement. Days are not predictable but always full of different things. Recently as shown in the picture he has been busy making the corner guttering for the houses. This will mean we can harvest the rain and have it fill the tanks. This will be a big saving for the village. Then, there have been bits and pieces that have had to be done on Suubi House. At the moment he is preparing a sermon for Sunday. Other times, he is called on by many around to pray for them or he is asked for advice.
One thing is for sure, our lives are not boring. They are very unpredictable. I have failed to mention the needs that get presented to us on a daily basis. The drought is having a devastating effect on people with many people we are told eating only one meal a day. The price of food is rocketing - sugar has gone from 3500 shillings to 5200 shillings in a matter of weeks. However, at this stage we are not seeing anything like the things we see on the television with Somalia. Relating to people is also important, so we are constantly having people visit, I drop in and see people on my way and then the lovely children that greet me as a I walk.
Hopefully this gives a bit more of a picture of our lives - though to be realistic, it is all too hard to describe.


  1. Teaching there is certainly different to any other place you've taught I'm sure. Thanks again for sharing it with us. Hard to hear that the price of food is still going up. Great to here though that
    Robert and Millie are settling in. Looking forward to seeing pictures ofthe roof on house 6 and the new kitchen. God bless.

  2. Thanks for the updates Anne and for keeping us "in the picture" - we continue to keep you and Ron in our prayers - be blessed!