February 23, 2016
Sunday is only 22 years old, yet already he is the headteacher of Lacek Community School in Nwoya district! To hold such an important position at such a young age is testimony to both his considerable talents as a teacher and to how highly he is considered in the surrounding community. But Sunday is not just a Headteacher. He is also participating in the Teacher Changemaker network, which we coordinate in partnership with STIR Education in Northern Uganda! So far, Sunday has implemented an incredibly successful Village Savings and Loans Association in Lacek School (they have saved an impressive 3,775,400 since May) which is also helping to bring parents closer to the school to monitor their children’s education, improving student motivation and performance. Read on to discover how Sunday is changing the way the local community views education and impacting on the next generation at Lacek Community School!
My parents were escaping from the Lord’s Resistence Army, so I was born in Gulu. But our original homeland is in Kinene. We moved back to Kinene in 2006 when the war ended. I was 13 years old. I have only 3 brothers without any girls. My mother gave birth to 4 girls but they all passed away. There were only 4 boys left. I have four half brothers and sisters from my fathers second wife. We all live together in Kinene. My father had many wives, almost 11. He is 80 years old now.
Teaching became interesting to me because of a certain teacher in my primary, called Mr Laloo. That teacher really made me who I am. I struggled to learn English, so he put a lot of work into teaching me how to speak and write well. I liked the way he taught me, and I promised to myself I would become a teacher.
Being part of the Teacher Changemaker network made me realise that the problem in our schools is parent engagement. It touches me. There is a lack of parent engagement in these communities – parents have very negative attitudes towards education. I saw that many were not able to pay their children in school. I sat down with the School Management Committees and asked, which is the best way we can help these parents? I decided to bring the Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA), which other localities are doing successfully. When they save money for 2 months, that money alone is able to pay the school fees for their children. So I decided to mobilize parents. Many parents joined me. Every week they come and save their money in the pool. So far they have saved 3,775,400 (since May 2015).
Children are getting benefits from their parents being in the VSLA. Their parents can borrow money and pay them, buy for them uniform, the scholastic materials. Also, the parents are able to monitor their children, whether they are in the class, whether they are learning. They first move around all the school compound checking what is wrong, what is good, and they feedback later.
In our culture, when you are a teacher, people prefer to be like you, because teachers are able to make unknown known. So people take teachers as the most important thing for the community. The change makers. Whenever there are any problems they first consult the teacher. During village meetings, I am always the chief’s guest when they are making bylaws. I help them to decide which ways to manage the schools and build the community. And when we are making school rules, we invite the chiefs to help. So when the child is not at school, we can give a phone call to the chief to inform him about the problem within his area of service.
I am getting some great advice from the network, like its OK to make mistakes. For us we take mistakes as a very bad thing. When we make mistakes in the Ugandan education system, people do not like it. But when I see anyone making mistakes, I just help them, and do not tell them off. The network always tells us that through mistakes, you can learn.
The part of the network that has motivated me a lot is friendship. Before, I didn’t know any of the other teachers in Nwoya district who are now in the network. I speak with my friend Gino (a pre-primary teacher at Purongo Hill Primary School) by phone almost daily. We just call each other and share the things from our day.
In the future, after going for my ECD diploma, I’m hoping to be a tutor and train teachers in Early Childhood Development. I can see myself so much specialised in the ECD because I understand young children’s behaviour.
My daughter, she is very stubborn! She is around 2 years old. At around 1 ½ years, she was also able to speak. She acquired language very early. I play with her everyday, even if she is not understanding everything I say. She is called Akello Charity Hope. She loves playing, she plays so much. When I reach home in the evening, we sing songs together. I will arrive and she will immediately come to me to sing songs, to speak funny things. In the future I want her to be like me – a teacher.
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Tagged Acholi, African Revival, Changemaker, Development, ECD, Education, endurance, Gulu, Headteacher, inspiration, International Development, Interview, Jumpstart!, Kampala, Nursery, Nursery School, Profile, Pupils, School, School Development, STIREducation, Teacher training, Uganda, World Teachers' Day |
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February 17, 2016
Irene started her early career as a tap dancer. Trained for a year by a man from California named Jack, she still has a real passion for the dance with ‘the glass shoes’. Now an Early Childhood Development teacher in Anaka P7 Primary School in Nwoya district, Northern Uganda, she regularly brings song and dance into her lessons as a way of energising her pupils and bringing her classroom alive. This interactive style of teaching is just one of the things she has learned from participating in Teacher Changemaker network, implemented by STIR Education and coordinated in Nwoya district by African Revival.
The Teacher Changemaker network encourages teachers across Uganda to introduce ‘micro innovations’, new techniques to increase the quality of education, into their lessons to respond to the challenges they face in the Ugandan education system. For Irene and her colleagues at Anaka P7, one of the main challenges is lack of parental engagement: “We decided that parental engagement is the biggest problem affecting our school. There are parents that, when you call them for a meeting, they don’t want to come. They don’t provide the scholastic materials for their children. You find a child will come to school hungry, without having eaten, and not be able to concentrate in class. Children like this end up failing.” She and her fellow teachers have introduced a procedure to counteract this challenge: “The first step is to call the parents for a meeting. The second stage is to go up to the home to see what is the problem stopping this child from performing. And the time comes when the parents start to listen, slowly, until they are now following the advice of the teacher. We have used this procedure and now there are many who come to check the progress of the children”. This micro innovation is already having positive results. This year, more children in Irene’s class passed, and she has noticed a change in the attitude of her students in class, now their parents are taking more of an interest in their education.
Irene is confident that the innovations and increased focus on critical analysis and problem solving that the Changemaker network has facilitated will continue to have a positive impact on her primary school: “as long as we keep innovations coming to Anaka p7, there will be a great many positive changes. Though we have some parents who don’t listen to the school, in time there will be a lot of improvements because us teachers have learned ways of solving the problems we face”
The network is also having a positive impact on Irene’s confidence and motivation as a teacher: “The network taught me that, if you are a teacher, you should have confidence in everything you do, you should be exemplary, you should have knowledge, you should be someone who searches for things that will make a change. Someone creative in the mind who will search for ways to make the children learn well and pass”.
She also enjoys the unity and collaboration with the other Teacher Changemakers, which is a real advantage for all participants. Teaching in any part of the world can be a difficult job, and in Uganda the lack of good infrastructure, teaching materials and training exacerbates the already considerable challenges. By encouraging teachers to share and support each other, the Teacher Changemaker network is looking to alleviate these challenges through an informal support system that allows participants to vocalise their problems and search for solutions together. This style of network also means that innovations produced by the teachers are tailored to the specific localised environments across Uganda, rather than ready-made solutions designed out of context. This contributes to the success of the network and its popularity amongst its Changemakers, especially Irene, who advised teachers to try out the new Changemaker innovations for themselves: “My advice for other teachers is this: go and put the micro innovations into use, because they will help a lot. And help you learn how to communicate with others, discuss, be social and cooperative and many others. When you go back to school tell others to do the same!”
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Tagged Acholi, African Revival, Changemaker, Development, ECD, Education, inspiration, International Development, Jumpstart!, Kampala, Kilimanjaro, Nursery, Nursery School, Profile, Pupils, School, School Development, STIREducation, Teacher, Teacher training, Uganda |
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September 18, 2015
Our Education Jumpstart! team is currently busy conducting Centre Development
Plan workshops, in which CMC (Centre Management Committee) members, PTA
(Parents-Teacher-Association) members, SMC (School Management Committees) members and caregivers are trained in developing a Centre Development Plan (CDP) for
their ECD centre. Last week, a two-days workshop was held at St Kizito Bidati Nursery School. With all parties attending, there were 10 enthusiastic and willing ‘learners’, eager to develop a 3-year-plan with one main goal: Quality Education!
The workshop followed three clearly defined objectives:
- Understand planning in the context of Centre Development Plan
- Identify areas that can be considered in that plan
- Understand the steps involved in the development plan
The key word for these workshops is empowerment: We help and guide them through the process of developing their Centre Management Plan by giving them incentives, asking questions and providing some constructive assistance when needed – but it is our participants that come up with concrete ideas which will then translate into their own, individual, customised Centre Development Plan! Right from the start, it is especially important to our Education Programme Coordinator Richard for everyone to realise how quality education can be achieved:
“A lot of school development plans focus on improving infrastructure. However, that doesn’t always have to translate into quality education! Teachers, for example, are much more essential – whatever you invest in their training and development will provide quality education!”
The participants at St Kizito Bidati quickly understood that quality education can only be achieved through a multifaceted approach. This is why, on DAY I, they identified four key areas which their CDP shall focus on: First of all, special emphasis shall be put on (1) ‘Curriculum delivery’ – This means it’s all about the teachers, their training, refresher workshops and adequate materials, but also their motivation from the parents. Here, Julius, a CMC member, stresses
“If you motivate the teachers, they will love your children more. If you care about this, about the teachers, they will have a set mind, they will care about a only your children, not worry about anything else.”
The second key area is (2) ‘Child-friendly learning environment’. The main focus will be ‘Creating a talking classroom’. This will involve investing in resources, so that at the end of the day, the classrooms are talking for themselves. However, an eye shall also be put on improving outside playing materials and providing enough shade for the children to play outside. Additionally, ensuring a clean and safe environment as well as a clean water source are also part and parcel of this key area. Thirdly, ‘school infrastructure’ (3) shall be improved through, for example, the construction of a bathing facility. Last but not least, boosting (4) ‘parental involvement’ is the fourth key area identified. They are aiming at sensitising parents on the value of ECD through events such as Parents Open Days. Additionally, they came up with another great idea to raise awareness about the importance of ECD: In Uganda, elections are coming up next May and local leaders have already been busy campaigning; the people from Bidati will try to convince some of these local leaders to include ECD in their manifestos! Parental involvement is a key issue for a sustainable change at every school, and at St Kitizito Bidati. This was also evident when looking at development partners and stakeholders. In this respect, as much as the support by NGOs is extremely valuable in these communities, it is decisive to look at them as an additional source of funding that can contribute to areas where parents lack sufficient funding.
On DAY II, they were ready to get into the details and started off with a SWOT/SCOT (Strengths, Weaknesses/Challenges, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of their school. This is done for specific purpose:
“We want them to see everything in order to make them aware of what is going on how they can use their opportunities to erase their weakness & strengths.”(Richard)
As the ECD centre is only in its nascent stage, it is faced with several challenges andweaknesses, ranging from a lack of classroom, bathing facilities, shades and playing and learning material to high rates of absenteeism in rainy and harvest seasons and rather low parental involvement. And poverty continues to plague the communities in the region, ultimately representing a threat to the mere maintenance of the nursery. However, they hope to tackle these issues by drawing on their strengths, such as dedicated and qualified teachers, committed CMC members, good enrolment and valuable support of the primary section, and exploiting their ‘opportunities’, may it be through cultivating bare school land for meals for the children or bringing more parents as well as children on board through greater community sensitisation.
Before everyone was off for the weekend, they started to get to the details, having a look at what resources and expenses will be necessary in order to implement their CDP. Participants were split up into groups. Coincidentally, their results perfectly complemented each other: While the first focused much more on the construction aspect of the SDP, the second prioritised on resources needed inside the classrooms. And once again, they agree on the importance of investing in teacher training. Additionally, their realistic mind-set and awareness of their limited resources inspires them to think practically. For example, when it comes to their constructions plans, they also consider local grass-thatched houses as an alternative.
The common goal of everyone involved inspires great teamwork and contribution – when Denis, one of the caregivers, addresses the issue of the provision of midday meal by parents, he makes quite a bold move, saying:
“Sometimes you give your children a meal, but you forget about the teachers.”
– But the cheekiness is met with great generosity by the attending parents, as they offer to supply the teachers with some land as well as support in the preparation of the land. Filled with motivating appreciation claps for their work, the two-days workshop at St Kizito Bidati ECD centre passed quickly and they look forward to the next workshop, eager to set their CMP into stone.
From the perspectives of the ‘Juliuses’
Following the workshop, we had the opportunity to talk to a PTA and CMC member who are both called Julius. Find out more about them in the following paragraphs!
Julius #1 – PTA member
We had the opportunity to chat to Julius, a farmer and PTA member at St Kizito Bidati. Four of his five children have already left primary school, but Moses, his youngest, remains and additionally, two of his grandsons, Patience and Emmanuel, from his oldest son, Walter, are currently in K3. Last year, Julius was selected as a PTA member by the community – a position that he has appreciated so far:
“I like it, because I am part of the school, it makes me part of the school. I know how learning is taken place; and above all, my child are also here.”
Here is an extract of our feedback-chat:
What do you think about the performance of the school ?
The school is doing well, but there are certain things that need to be improved on – mostly the parents, who are not doing their part. What do you think of ECD? I am very positive about the ECD, because that is the foundation, for this school to succeed, although there are still challenges with them; there are a few things to be done with the ECD to have that quality.
What do you think of the Jumpstart! project?
For me, the Jumpstart! project is really good, it’s coming to complement what parents are trying to do.
What is best about it?
What I like most about this is the caregivers training, and refresher coursers, the way that teachers are being developed in their skills and are improving each time, because the teachers have demonstrated what they were like before and what they are now. And we, as the management, we were very happy about that. And I think, the impact will go to the children.
What do you think of the workshop?
This workshop is very good. And it wasn’t there before. No one was thinking about it. I now understand the planning – it gives people the opportunity to know what they are supposed to be doing. And I was interested to know more of the different roles of the stakeholders. And I was requesting that such support, if possible, should continue to the leadership of the school, to the management, because it would help them do their work well.
What’s the most important part for you to implement in the CDP?
For me, curriculum delivery is the most important, as well as supporting the teachers, their training and providing the learning materials.
What do you hope for the school?
My hope for this school is to have more caregivers; at least two per class, and this will improve the quality of teaching.
Julius #2 – CMC member
Meet Julius, a 36 year-old farmer from Bidati village in Nyowa district, father of Jacob, Prosie and Fiona, and dedicated member of St.Kitizo Bidati School Central Management Committee ! He was one of the attendees at the two-day Jumpstart! training workshop about developing a Centre Development Plan.
The most important thing that Julius learnt at the training is the importance of planning:
“before the training, the committee was motivated, but not so organised because there was no plan. Now we know who should do what at which time because in the plan everything is detailed – timeframe, goals, responsables, activities. And we are not stopping here – we will meet with other parents to communicate this knowledge.”
Learning how to create action plans has formalised the way the committee works, making them more efficient and productive. Julius is positive that with these new skills, the committee can encourage parents to unite to support the progress of the school.
Indeed, Julius wants to form a committee plan that will raise the standard of education at nursery level, ultimately increasing the quality of teaching and learning and contributing to early childhood development. His belief in the importance of nursery education is based on his own experience as a parent. While his two daughters attended nursery school, his son Jacob did not. The two girls excel at school (Fiona is 1st in her class), often receiving certificates praising their academic performance and organisational skills. However Jacob struggles at school, and has little interest in completing his homework. Julius attributes the educational success of his daughters to their nursery education, which he says helped them to build basic skills and confidence before entering primary level.
However, we think that Julius’s dedication to his children’s education has also contributed to this success. He keeps a close eye on his children’s progress both at school and at home, attending ‘lesson day’ each term, a time for parents to attend classes with their children, observe the work scheme and discuss the curriculem with the teachers. Julius regrets leaving school at a young age, so he really values lesson day;
‘I always want to attend, rather than my wife, and sometimes I ask to be set assignments with the children !”
Now that’s dedication ! In the future, he hopes that his children will study hard, but above all “be self-respecting individuals, with careers of their own, who value their jobs”. And he will also do his best to improve the quality of nursery education at Kizito Bidati so that all the students can grow as individuals and have successful careers.
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Tagged Africa, African Revival, ECD, Education, Interview, Nursery, Profile, Pupils, School, School Development, Uganda |
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