February 3, 2016
Elijah (pictured left) was the first boy in his village in rural Uganda to go to school. But seven years later, on the last day of Primary School, Elijah was unable to write a paragraph, read anything more than the simplest of sentences, or add and subtract. His father, dismayed that his son had failed so dramatically, walked to the school to visit the teacher and demand some answers. He said, “you failed me and you failed my son. I thought his life would be better than mine if he had an education”. And the teacher replied, “the son of a donkey will always be a donkey”.
Such bad teachers are of course an anomaly in Uganda. But this story is a reflection of a problem facing many children across the world: lack of quality education in the classroom that leads to many pupils leaving primary school without being able to read, write or solve a simple mathematical problem. Quality education was also set as one of the new Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations, who have identified that, although the number of children going to school has increased, levels of literacy levels in many countries have actually deteriorated.
It is this problem that the Teacher Changemaker network in Uganda, led by STIR Education, aims to address. The network is designed for teachers to share ideas and innovations, as well as to provide a source of motivation for participants in what can be a difficult working environment. African Revival’s Jumpstart! team has been helping STIR to manage the network in Nwoya district, and recently accompanied 28 Teacher Changemakers to the annual STIR network summit in Kampala. Held in the ‘Wonderland’ complex in the grounds of the International University of East Africa, over 1,000 teachers attended the summit to receive certificates attesting to their hard work as Changemakers and to listen to talks by several keynote speakers, including government representatives from the Ministry of Education and Ugandan motivational speaker Fagil Musa Mandy.
The speeches on the day were varied and inspiring. Many of the speakers focused on the characteristics of a Changemaker, highlighting that change first starts with the individual and that the teachers must make an effort to foster qualities such as discipline and efficiency in themselves as a prelude to change in the classroom. The Commissioner of Private Education emphasised the necessity of good habits: “If you want to be change agents, you must change yourselves first. Make it a habit that whatever God has given you to do, you do it with all your heart, all of your strength and all of your love. Learn to have good habits of time management, of working, of not missing classes.”
Gino (right), a nursery teacher from Purongo Hill Primary School in Nwoya district, reaffirmed this lesson after the conference: “The change begins with me the teacher. If I want to teach others, I really must have the courage to identify where my own weaknesses are, so I can begin a new journey of growth as both an individual, and an educator”
There was also an emphasis on rebranding the role of the teacher. In Uganda, the teaching profession has lost its prestige and is considered by many an undesirable role due to the meagre salary and often isolated posts in rural schools. But STIR wants to challenge the negative perceptions of educators and promote teaching as a noble, valuable profession – and teachers as powerful agents of change.
The summit was a perfect opportunity to reaffirm the values of the network and celebrate the hard work of the participating teachers to instigate change in their schools and communities. The Teacher Changemaker network encourages teachers to identify problems in their school and create ‘micro-innovations’ to address them – in collaboration with their fellow Changemakers, with whom participants can share, discuss and analyse ideas. Irene (left), a nursery teacher from Anaka Primary School explains the process: “One of us may ask, ‘what can we do to help this child’. So we sit down and share together, and discuss what we should do? Everyone contributes their opinion and then we put the ideas together and work hand in hand to reach a solution. We first discuss, then problem solve.”
Sunday (right), a 22 year-old teacher from Lacek Primary School in Nwoya district, identified his pupils’ home environment as a major obstacle to learning. Sometimes parents show little interest in their children’s education and do not save the necessary funds to pay school fees and purchase scholastic materials. So Sunday decided to start a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) for the parents: “My micro-innovation is that I am bringing parents closer to my school through a Village Savings and Loans Association. They come and save money together, and also monitor their children in class, which helps to improve educational performance.”
The network also encourages participation from local leaders, working across the system and targeting different layers of society to ensure that the approach is holistic, inclusive and instigates change at every level. Without ‘permission to innovate’ from parents and district officials, STIR Education CEO Sharath Jeevan acknowledged that their approach may not be effective. Stephen, a teacher from Nwoya central agreed: “Improving a child’s learning is not the responsibility of only one person. It is for all stakeholders, like the local leaders, the parents, the teachers and everybody in the community.”
However the purpose of the summit in Kampala was primarily to celebrate the efforts of the teachers themselves to bring quality education to the classroom. Fagil Musa Mandy encapsulated their importance to Uganda perfectly in his powerful speech, when he said: “It is teachers who help to make the child’s dream clearer and let it grow. The only profession that opens hearts and makes them grow into flowers is the teacher”.
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Tagged Africa, African Revival, Changemaker, Education, Gulu, inspiration, International Development, Jumpstart!, Kampala, STIREducation, 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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September 9, 2015
Here at African Revival, we absolutely love meeting brilliant and inspiring teachers! Mondella, from Inkumbi Basic School, is one such teacher.
Mondella is originally from Mongo, a town in Zambia’s western province, but moved to Livingstone (southern province) in 1997 to study for his teaching certificate at Livingstone College of Education. Mondella has now been a teacher for fifteen years, and joined the teaching staff at Inkumbi Basic three years ago. Mondella lives on the school compound with his wife and children who attend the school. He has an 11-year old son, Naromindilla and twin daughters: Sepiso and Seveso who are six. Naromindilla is in grade 7, whilst the twins are currently in grade 1 and are taught by their mother, Natala, who is also a teacher. When your mother is your teacher, we’re sure that the old “the dog ate my home-work” excuses don’t really fly!
Mondella currently teaches grade 6, and also teaches maths and science to students in the upper basic section (secondary) of the school. Mondella actually entered the teaching profession because he was so inspired by one of his own secondary school teachers: “I used to really admire my physics, chemistry and biology teacher; he was my role model, he taught me so many things and he was just a genius because he had so much knowledge! He encouraged me a lot, and I wanted to be like him.” Just like his own teacher, Mondella likes “seeing children learn things they never knew before, and seeing them develop as individuals and as peers, it really brings joy to me”. One of the reasons Mondella loves seeing his students eager to learn is because he knows just how valuable education is, and what it can help people achieve: “(education) is so important, and the good thing is that it doesn’t choose who you are- whether you are rich or poor, as long as you can study, you can improve your life and move forward. You could be poor but if you have an education, then you can work your way up- a farmer’s son could even become president!”
However, it can be challenging to give the children at Inkumbi the quality of teaching they deserve as the school struggles with over-enrolment and under-staffing. Although Mondella tells us that he tries his best, managing large classes is hard, and ideally he would like to divide the classes up, so that he can give individual children more attention. Although the school has its difficulties, the pupils still enjoy and benefit from their learning environment: “My pupils enjoy learning; they like school because they are learning new things, and they are able to socialise with their peers. They have time to play so they like it here.” Mondella hopes that his pupils will continue to enjoy school so that “they will complete their education, and they might be employed or self-reliant due to the knowledge which they have acquired here at school.”
We think Mondella’s pupils are very fortunate to have such a passionate teacher, who works so hard to instil a love for knowledge in his students. We’re sure that, just as his teacher inspired him, Mondella has inspired many children over the years to pursue excellent vocations!
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Tagged Africa, International Development, Teacher, Teacher training, Zambia |
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