This last week has been a lot about thinking seeing and doing 'stuff'' related to education. We have farewelled the great team who finished off houses 5 and 6 which might sound like a little job but in fact, of course it wasn't. Lots of hard work putting a surface on the walls and exterior, painting all the windows and doors, fitting everything out, making and pouring concrete in the area between the houses and kitchen just to name a few things. So, goodbye to them and now we have other guests and all but one are teachers! Hence education, education, education. It has been great to be able to talk about education in all sorts of ways and to have the implementing of stuff with the children as shown in some of the photos. In addition I had the opportunity to meet with the head of curriculum for Uganda.
Kim and Jo are both primary teachers and with the thought of new children coming without any English or education I am very keen to get as many ideas as I can. Ideas not just from them but also from Allie and Adam are flowing and with them working with the children from P1 and P2 in the afternoons. The admin centre is beginning to look more like a lower primary classroom! It is exciting to see and helps me to see ways to help it continue, if only there were more hours in a day! Kim has flown out today ready for Term 4 in Australia but the others are here another week. So, tomorrow I am spending the morning with Jo to tease out a bit of a program for the newbies. She is also doing some study and so hopefully I will be able to help her with answers about the work here. It is so nice to be able to talk about different things and brainstorm together. After all, I think by talking, and to have others who talk education is such a change for me.
Education is really important. For those who have not heard what I think is one of the most significant statistics, over 50% of the population is under 15. Then, when you consider that many students continue secondary school into their 20s due to lack of school fees at different times, the number of people to be educated is enormous. There must be a way that this can happen better and in smaller proportions. I teach over 80 students in my class and yet people are relational as probably the highest priority. Hence, their natural learning styles are squashed, they are forced to learn in more a lecture style environment - imagine 200 preps in one class! However, thinking about numbers, with this many people to educate how can you possibly afford to have small (even 40 would be good!) class sizes? Hence, while we develop a bit of a bridging program for our new children it will be very present in my mind about how this could be adapted to bring to adult groups, villages, and other places.
Our visitors have also been able to go to Hope Community High School where I teach. Jo was handing out penpal letters. Her school in Australia has been able to have a lot of contact. It is a little different as it is primary students interacting with secondary but very valuable none the less. Today when I went many of the students expressed their enjoyment of the visitors. At Hope Community it is exciting to see things developing further in preparation for S5 next year. The building needs to be ready for when the S4s have examinations next month. So, it looks like the roof will be going on today and I have been busy working with the science department on the budget for those monies. It will be great to see a fully equipped science laboratory. Now, the challenge is how to store the materials so that they are available and kept well.Meanwhile while our visitors were at the high school Ron and I went to Kampala. The chief reason for the visit was for me to meet with the Head of Curriculum for Uganda. Of course, other jobs were included as is always the case. We had had the opportunity to meet him on another day and he was keen to renew the acquaintance. He is also the person in charge of mathematics for Uganda and so of particular interest to me. I was able to give him a graphics calculator and a CAS calculator. How amazing is that, the head of mathematics and he had not ever had even a graphics calculator. So many issues we discussed. They still have issues with people wanting log table books to be included. He asked how long ago they were stopped in Australia - we said 30 years (might not be completely accurate but close). There are so many dilemmas even in mathematics education. Inequity is even more evident in a country like this. Many schools struggle even to have students have exercise books and pens while others (probably a small number) are private and have computers and all the facilities. Numeracy is a real issue with so many people not having any concept of number. This is taught so well in our primary schools with concrete aids - hence the need to develop programs here using materials that are readily available.
So, what is happening from these discussions. I have come away with the curriculum documents for all subjects for S5 and S6. My understanding is that I will look at these (of course in particular the mathematics) and make any suggestions - they are not yet in printed form. Then, there is new curriculum coming in for S1 - S4 and this will involve a pilot program and gradual introduction. He is very keen for me to assist in the development of teacher inservicing of the new material and how to teach it. So, who knows how this will pan out but I know that God is guiding and opportunities that arise need to be taken up. It has been so good to have had the background of teaching all year at Hope Community to gain a real insight into the issues, challenges and strengths of teaching here. I will continue to remain in reasonably close contact with Baale, though he is a very busy man with his very important role.
This year has certainly provided me with so much to think about and to ponder. The way forward for education relating to the children in the village, education in schools and ways to assist in the literacy programs for adults. I have seen some poor models, with Ugandan people only knowing a rote form of learning and hence learning English in this way. Having English as my first language I know how most things can be expressed in so many ways. This is not the case here, most people learn one way of saying things which then leads to misunderstanding that boths sides are unaware of in conversations with Muzungus. So, the thinking process continues, the work continues and hopefully the effecting of change continues to have a small part in the breaking of the cycle of poverty.