Farming for Education

Posted on by Elaine Miller


More than 80% of Ugandans rely on agriculture to earn a living. Most are subsistence farmers, especially in Northern Uganda. As part of our School Demonstration Gardens, African Revival trains subsistence farmers in new farming techniques on a plot of land near school. This helps farmers improve their productivity at home. But it also brings parents closer to their children’s school. While working on the school garden, parents can also save their money in a Village Savings and Loans Association – which helps them pay school fees on time.


When we asked parents the benefit of the School Demonstration Garden, many spoke about bringing parents closer to the school and creating good relationships between parents, teachers and school management.


_MG_1061“We used to have a kind of fear between teachers and parents – parents would fear teachers and teachers would fear parents. But now there is good contact between teachers and parents, where teachers even tell us the weaknesses of our children”

said Christine, a parent at Pawel Langetta Primary School


_MG_1043 “Our coming to school has made us known to the teachers. Now teachers know which child belongs to which parent. Where the child goes wrong, the teacher can contact the parent directly. If your child is not performing, the teacher will come to you directly as the parent” said Bosco, a parent at Pawel Langetta and Chairperson of the School Demonstration Garden.


Parents also talk about being able to monitor their children at school while they are working in the School Demonstration Garden.




_MG_1033“Some children would leave school early. But now we are working in the garden at school, there’s no way for children to escape school because they know their parents are there. So they stay in school all day long and attend all school activities” said Edward, a parent at Pawel Langetta Primary School.



_MG_1023 “Some pupils hid out behind buildings when they came to school and skipped class. But now the parents come to school, pupils worry their parents will see them loitering so they go to class”

said Jessica, also a parent at Pawel Langetta



And finally, with a better relationship between the parents and the school, parents understand how they can best support their children in school.


_MG_1080 “As a group, we decided to pay the exam fees for all of our children out of the money we saved in the VSLA” said Anthony, a parent at Labala Primary School and Chairperson of the Labala School Demonstration Garden



“My child’s punctuality has improved because I come to school early to work in the School Demonstration Garden and I never leave my child behind. And when my child gets out of class, I always buy something for her lunch so she’s not hungry when she goes back” said Jessica


Our School Demonstration Garden aims to bring together livelihoods and education – by training parents to improve their agricultural productivity and income at home, and also encouraging support for their children’s education. You can find out more about the School Demonstration Garden project here:



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Facts about phonics!

Posted on by Sophie Hicks

_MG_1425African Revival recently organised a 3- day phonics training for Koch Goma Primary School with phonics trainers Jody Spencer and Akello Catherine. Jody and Catherine used the Fun of Phonics curriculum, which has been adapted by Jody from international phonics programmes to fit the local teaching environment in Uganda. Teachers were trained in a multisensory synthetics phonics approach using actions and song, and practiced using teaching methods such as pair reading.

But what is phonics? How is it different from teaching children to read using the rote memorization technique? And why is it so effective? Find out all you ever wanted to know about phonics here!

What is phonics?

Phonics is a method of teaching reading and writing that focuses on sounds. In the English language there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, however there are 44 sounds and 120 main ways of writing these sounds. Phonics teaches children to recognise and write these sounds by training them to correlate these different sounds (phonemes) with letters (graphemes).

_MG_1645Take an example

Phonemes are the smallest units of sound that make up a word.

Take the word ‘star’. While it consists of only one syllable, it contains four different phonemes: /s/ /t/ /a/ /r/. When teaching phonics, children will be taught the sound each phoneme makes, then how to put these sounds together to sound out the whole word.

Some sounds have one letter, while others have two or three. For example, the word ‘fish’ has four letters but only three sounds – the letters ‘sh’ make one sound but are two letters.

Why is phonics an effective teaching method?

A written language is basically a kind of a code. Teaching phonics is just teaching children to crack that code by learning to recognize the sounds of letters and different letter combinations. Children learn the simple bits first and then easily progress to get the hang of the trickier bits. Phonics gives children the skills to decode new words that they have not been taught by sounding them out, therefore equipping them with the skills to read and write independently.

_MG_1568Is phonics effective?

Yes. A study in the UK led by Educational Psychologist Marlynne Grant has shown the effectiveness of phonics instruction at nursery and primary level. The study followed a group of 30 children who were taught using phonics for the first time in nursery, and tracked their progress for three years, to the end of year two in primary school. Grant’s research found that in 2013, members of the year two class of seven-year-olds were on average 28 months ahead of their chronological age for reading and 21 months above their age for spelling.

Why is rote learning not effective?

Rote learning is a memorisation technique centred on repetition and cramming. It is based on the idea that the more a child repeats a piece of information, the quicker they will be able to recall it. However, this quick recall often comes at the expense of a deeper understanding because rote learning does not focus on comprehension.

In Uganda, pupils are often taught English using this rote learning method. Children are taught to repeat and memorize particular sentences and words, but are not taught how to decipher specific sounds in words. This means that some children can read words they have already been taught, but cannot tackle new words on their own. Other children, however, find it difficult to memorize words and can progress through primary school with a limited reading ability.  Many children leave primary school without being able to read independently when taught using rote memorization.

_MG_1398What are literacy levels in Uganda?

Across Uganda, one third of youth are illiterate and pass rates for English amongst children aged 10-16 are only 47% (Uwezo). In many schools, especially those in poorer rural areas, quality of education remains poor and teachers lack practical skills and educational resources. Many children leave school without the ability to read simple sentences that they have not already been taught.

Why does literacy matter?

Children’s poor skills in reading and writing have a direct result on their results in other academic subjects such as mathematics and science because the main academic language for exams in primary school is English. Children who cannot read and understand questions for these subjects often perform poorly in exams and do not develop literacy skills vital for success in the workplace and beyond.

_MG_1527How can training teachers in phonics help improve literacy levels?

The root cause of illiteracy is the way teachers are trained in Uganda. In general, they are taught to use rote memorisation to train pupils to read and write, often graduating from Primary Teaching College without being confident in teaching English. In some rural schools, some teachers struggle with the English language themselves following years of poor instruction, so struggle to teach the language in the classroom. Moreover, they lack skills in effective, research-based teaching methods which engage learners. By training teachers in phonics methodology, they will be equipped with the skills to teach children how to decode new words and give them the framework to independently develop their literacy level. Strong literacy skills will help students to improve their performance in other subject areas, with general comprehension across subjects enhanced by the ability to read and write well.

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