Happy 6 Month Anniversary Jumpstart!July 1, 2015
We are so excited to see our Jumpstart! programme turn 6 months old this month! The project was made possible with UK Aid match funding from the Department of International Development. The goal of Jumpstart! is to ensure that nursery pupils receive the best possible start in life so that they develop into well-rounded individuals and are well-prepared to excel in their subsequent studies. Since February 2015, our education team has been working endlessly to transform ten nurseries in the Nwoya district of northern Uganda.
So what has been happening in the last few months?
As some of you may know, we started off with a strong focus on teacher training and skill development. Although a number of our caregivers had received formal teacher training, they struggled with implementing their knowledge and the government learning schemes according to the required standards. This is why our 36 caregivers hav
e been undergoing several refresher courses and workshops on Early Child Development, supporting them in every aspect of their daily teaching life, from scheming and planning lessons to understanding the children better. We are also happy to enable 10 of our caregivers without formal teacher training to attend formal teacher training in order to obtain the official Certificate for ECD.
This support has been essential, as Richard, our Education Programme Coordinator, pointed out: “if we see any differences now, it’s because of our focus on teacher training right from the start.” Gradually, we are witnessing changes in the way teachers are now scheming and preparing the classes, and classrooms themselves are being increasingly transformed into colourful learning environments. This also shows how teacher training and skill development goes hand in hand with our ongoing emphasis on ensuring child-friendly learning spaces and materials. In order to make this transformation sustainable, we have held specific workshops, where teachers have learnt how to create
teaching materials which are free or cheap to produce, which will stimulate their pupils’ learning, and engage their young students. The teachers have learnt how to utilize local materials for learning resources; collecting brightly coloured bottle lids to use as counters is cheap, but extremely effective. We equipped the teachers with assorted materials (including coloured card, and felt tip pens) so that now, Jumpstart! nursery classrooms are full of bright posters, and flashcards which will help students with tasks like learning the alphabet, and numbers.
However, for sustainable change, we also need the whole community to get involved; we need the support and engagement of parents in their children’s education and the nurseries themselves. This is why our education team has also been busy holding sensitization meetings throughout the Nwoya district, with an overall attendance of 1036 parents! These sensitization meetings represented one of the first steps of Jumpstart!: establishing a partnership with parents and care-givers, as we work collaboratively to give children the best possible start in life. During these meetings, we worked alongside parents and care-givers to ensure that children receive the appropriate support at home, and to increase the parents’ involvement in the nurseries, whether it be by providing food or by cleaning the school environment. In addition, as many parents struggle to pay school fees on time, we have also supported the communities in establishing a Village Saving & Loan Association, where struggling parents may take up loans. Furthermore, we have initiated termly parents open days, where teachers and parents can connect, and discuss their children’s progress, to deepen their involvement in their children’s learning. At the end of Term 1, all ECD centres held successful parent open days; in total, 219 parents attended the open days. It was a great opportunity for parents to see what their children have been learning and admire their achievements. These days have proved to be a powerful way of demonstrating the value of nursery education.
Moreover, starting in June, teachers, parents and children are gathering at each ECD centre for a tree-planting ceremony. As Nwoya District is quite strongly affected by the issue of climate change, it was felt that this would be an appropriate way to address the issue. Additionally, it was a perfect occasion to reinforce community engagement, and these trees will surely grow into symbols of change for the communities.
We are thrilled that the transformation in teacher performance and community involvement that we are witnessing in these ECD centres has also been recognised by the District Inspector of Schools. In June, African Revival received a Certificate of Recognition for its “distinguished service to the Children of Nwoya District” from the Nwoya District Local
Government. We were overjoyed to receive such kind feedback and see it as giving us ever more reason to continue our work and reinforce our efforts. This is why we already have been busy planning the next few months.
So what is going to happen in the next few months?
In regards to our emphasis on improving learning environment and materials, we are eager to provide the ECD centres with the necessary teaching and learning materials which allow them to offer their children a solid foundation upon which they can build their lives to become well-rounded and successful individuals. In this respect, it is of utmost importance that we are culturally sensitive and preserve local culture. This is why we will be working on the production of teaching and learning material in the local language which reflects local culture. At the core of this will be the creation of storybooks containing local folk stories. We can’t wait to see the first few examples of this!
Furthermore, our teachers will need additional attention and support in their work as they will be officially tested by the government for the very first time over the next few weeks and months. We are thrilled to see the enthusiasm and commitment of our teachers in preparing for these evaluations and we will do our best to help them in every possible way. At the same time, this will be a good opportunity to receive some feedback on the performance of our teachers and their training. We are looking forward to establishing teacher profiles, from a combination of these evaluation results and personal background information of each teacher, which will enable us to improve and adjust our support according to the teachers’ needs.
We are also planning on reinforcing community involvement by providing training o developing school development plans and school missions. We aim at generating a sustainable transformation through and by the communities we work with. This is why it is so important for us that first of all, teachers, parents and children create their school together, and secondly, that they set school goals, which they can achieve, drawing on the locally available resources and materials.
But now, it’s time to celebrate!
We are impressed by the commitment and engagement of all the communities involved, and thrilled to see how the transformation has been gradually taking place within the last 6 months. We hope you are as happy as we are to celebrate this 6 month anniversary with us, because we have prepared quite a few exciting things for you: 6 photos to give you a visual idea about the Jumpstart! Programme; 6 quotes from teachers, parents or children and 6 reflections of our staff for a more personal insight into the project; and we also want to introduce some of our schools and teachers to you, which is why we will upload 6 school and 6 teacher profiles.
Happy 6 Month Jumpstart! Anniversay everyone!