Tag Archives: Gulu
June 16, 2016
African 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).
Take 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.
Is 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.
What 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.
How 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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Tagged African Revival, Changemaker, Development, ECD, Education, Gulu, inspiration, Inspiring Head Teacher, International Development, Jumpstart!, Nursery School, School Development, Teacher training |
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May 5, 2016
In rural Nwoya district, Northern Uganda, many children are not in school. Some have dropped out – others have never been to school at all. The reasons for dropping out are myriad. Some families do not have enough money to pay the fees for multiple children at school, as well as school uniform and scholastic materials. Other children are required to stay at home to care for sick relatives or help with household chores.
Molly (right) is one young girl who, at 13 years old, had never been to school until she enrolled in Speed School. Her uncle, who she lives with, did not allow her to go to school; instead she stayed at home to do most of the cooking and cleaning. And hers is not an isolated case. Sarah, also 13, had to drop out of school when her father spent all the money meant for school fees on the bride price for Sarah’s step mother. Paying dowry is still a tradition in northern Uganda and often impoverishes families. After the money had been used on his new bride, Sarah’s father asked her and her 4 siblings to stay at home until he found the money for their education. 3 are now enrolled in Speed School, which is a free initiative.
The reasons why children have dropped out of school are complex and difficult to address. But now a new initiative called Speed School, implemented by African Revival in partnership with Geneva Global, is aiming to get these drop outs back into school. The Speed School programme was previously implemented by Geneva Global in Ethiopia. The project was such a success that it was brought to Uganda and adapted to the national education system. African Revival is now managing 30 Speed School classes, each with 25 pupils. Over one year, we aim to educate and reintroduce 750 pupils into mainstream education and address the root causes of primary school drop outs and absenteeism.
Speed School is an accelerated learning programme which will teach children the first 3 years of the primary curriculum, after which they will re-join the formal education system in Grade 4. Children are taught using effective participatory and child-centred learning methods which the Speed School teachers (called facilitators) learned during an intensive training session at the start of the project. The facilitators are also taught different ways to lesson plan, make learning aids, and encouraged to place an emphasis on critical thinking skills in class. Reduced class sizes of 25 pupils (the average teacher-pupil ratio in government schools is 1:80) also makes classes easier to manage and improves behaviour and pupil motivation. Moreover, the facilitators are from the local community, so as well as teaching the condensed curriculum, they can also monitor their pupils to ensure that they stay in Speed School and do not drop out again.
As well as Speed School classes, Geneva Global have also established self-help groups for the parents of the enrolled pupils. In these groups parents – primarily mothers – will be trained in Income Generating Activities to economically empower them so they are able to meet the financial demands of educating their children. These activities may include Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA), agriculture or business activities.
By ensuring the parents are empowered economically, the Speed School programme aims to address one of the main reasons why children dropped out of school in the first place: lack of money for school fees. Even if parents want their children to gain an education, school is not always a priority. Richard, a bright-eyed 13 year-old, dropped out of school in 2012 because both of his parents had died. He now lives with his grandmother, and has a hand-to-mouth existence: his grandmother is frail and can only generate enough money to feed Richard. No money is left for school fees. But now Speed School is helping Richard to study again and get an education, so one day he can achieve his dream of becoming a pilot: “I want to be a pilot so I can move in different places, and learning ways of living and different cultures”. Motivated and focus, we are sure Richard, along with the other children in Speed School, will excel this year in this supportive programme and go on to succeed in the future.
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Tagged Acholi, African Revival, Changemaker, Education, Gulu, Headteacher, inspiration, Inspiring Head Teacher, International Development, Lord's Resistance Army, Northern Uganda, Nursery School, School Development, Teacher training |
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April 11, 2016
At African Revival, we always ask the communities who benefit from our construction projects to make a contribution. This can be either financial or in the form of labour and resources. But why ask for this contribution? Why is it important for the success of the project? In this article, we explore the benefits of community contribution and ask Construction Coordinator Vincent about what motivates parents to contribute.
When an outside organisation comes into a rural community to work on a construction project, there is a risk that the community members see the building as belonging to an outside agency. Often this means that they do not have a feeling of responsibility towards it and in many cases do not properly maintain it. They see this as the duty of the outside organisation. This can mean construction projects fall into disrepair and are not sustainable in the long term.
In order for the community to properly maintain a building, they must feel some sense of ownership towards it. Community contribution of money, labour or resources can help generate this sense of ownership and make a project more sustainable, as Construction Coordinator Vincent explains: “If the community make a contribution, the sense of ownership gets into them. In most interventions that have been going on in the construction industry, we realise that after a while the community still doesn’t own the place, even if you hand over officially to them. So we want them to own the latrine, right from the onset”
This sense of ownership can be generated by involving the community members right from the start, by consulting them about their real needs, involving them in the planning process and asking them what they can realistically contribute. A community in a rural setting may want to contribute building materials sourced from the local environment, which costs them nothing, while a town-based community may not have access to natural building materials and may choose instead to contribute in cash. Whatever the contribution, it encourages a sense of duty and pride towards the new facility, as Vincent describes: “If they contribute, the community feels more ownership than when someone just gives it to them. So that means if the facilities are completed they will take care of it. They will try to see that nobody messes it up. If there is any burglary, they are willing to take care of the security. They rejoice at the end of the day that this is their labour, their contribution. They feel proud that they have contributed for the construction of a classroom, now their children are able to use the facility”
Voluntary provision of labour, time, money and materials can also help to break patterns of dependency and passivity. If the community knows that in order to benefit from a construction project, they will also need to contribute, this can help to counteract a hand-out culture inspired by decades of free projects and facilities. Involving a community in the planning and implementation process can also empower individuals by giving them decision-making power over their own futures, as well as imparting new knowledge and skills – for instance knowledge about proper planning or new construction skills. All these factors contribute to the long term sustainability of the project by encouraging responsibility amongst the community and giving them the skills they need to properly maintain a construction project.
But what motivates a community to contribute? According to Vincent, it is a desire to see the best for all the members of that community, and in the case of school construction projects, a better future for their children:“Some may want their children to be in a safe environment. If the environment is good, that means the education is better. Most importantly, it is about the future of the children who attend the school. The community want to see a child have a better future. If there is anything that they can do, like development fees, like personal labour – that is the driving force that makes community members give contributions”
Community member Christine, a parent at Teddi Community School where African Revival recently constructed a new block of latrines, agrees: “We don’t contribute because of a penalty or a demand. We contribute because we want to see this school and community development and want to be part of that process.” At Teddi, the parents contributed 1000UGX for each of their children enrolled at the school. They also signed a maintenance agreement with African Revival, which hands over responsibility for all upkeep to the School Management Committee. While we will always be there to offer support to this particular community, they are motivated to care for the facility because it has improved sanitation at the school, especially for the female pupils, as parent Sharon explains: “I was happy to contribute to the latrine. Now our girls have more privacy”.
Overall, community contribution to construction projects ensures the long term sustainability of that project, while also giving communities more authority over their own development and futures.
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Tagged African Revival, community contribution, community development, Development, Education, Gulu, inspiration, International Development, Lord's Resistance Army, School Development, Teacher training |
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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 11, 2016
Kevin, aged 23, is a primary teacher from Anaka P7 Primary School, and a fantastic Teacher Changemaker! She is participating in STIR Education’s Teacher Changemaker network, which is designed for teachers to share ideas and innovations, as well as to provide a source of motivation for educators in what can be a difficult working environment. African Revival’s Jumpstart! team has been helping STIR to manage the network in Nwoya district, where we caught up with Kevin to find out how the Changemaker network is benefitting her and her students!
I teach in the primary section of Anaka P7. I like the lower primary classes because they are young and friendly, so I enjoy interacting with them. The Teacher Changemaker network has given me a lot of methods about how to handle children, especially children with behavioural problems. It has given me more skills to handle the stubborn ones, the latecomers, and others with different problems.
The best thing about being part of the Teacher Changemaker network is that we meet many Changemakers who give us many new skills. I have learnt the qualities of a good teacher, how to handle the classroom situation and how to make the classroom into a good learning environment.
Being a Changemaker means being a teacher who is an all rounder, being a teacher who has a growth mind-set not a fixed mind-set and a teacher who is always ready for anything. As a Changemaker, you have to practice what you preach. You have to be innovative, influential, creative and motivate the learners.
This year I will use one micro innovation that I call ‘I do, we do, you do’. I will first do on my own as the learners watch and learn from me. Then ‘we do’ together. Then ‘you do’ – one particular learner will do as I observe and correct the work. We had some training about this. I’ve tried it before and it always works very well. Even during our teacher training, we do the exercises like this and it’s a nice technique.
Since being involved in the Teacher Changemaker network, I have one success story about a child who didn’t enjoy learning. The child came from a long distance away, so the problem was lack of lunch, because at school we don’t provide food for the learners. I decided to talk to the parents of the child to make a plan. I started by advising them that in life there is mostly one thing: if the stomach is full, the brain will be open to learning new things, but if the stomach is complaining, the brain is focused on the stomach. The parents followed my advice and sent the child to school with packed lunch. Soon after, the learning behaviour of the child changed – they came to school early and concentrated in class. When the year ended last year, the child passed very well. After I saw the positive progress of the child, I told my fellow Changemakers in my school about the procedure I had used.
The happiest moment I have ever had is when I graduated from teaching college. I found that during my school practice I got an A! I celebrated this moment, because it’s the moment I became a qualified teacher.
I want to go to the next level of education. I want to do a degree in primary education. If I can, I’ll try East African International University in Kampala where this year’s STIR Education summit was held. I will work very hard to achieve this goal.
My role model is my dad because he is a teacher, so I’ve also decided to take his profession. He is a head teacher in St.Luke’s Primary School in Nwoya district. I always look at what he does and admire him because he is funny, friendly and nice.
If I could give one piece of advice to a group of people it would be to be comfortable with change. They should not be static. If change comes, they should be open to new things. Like if a new teaching innovation is introduced we should embrace it.
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Tagged African Revival, Changemaker, Development, ECD, Education, Gulu, inspiration, International Development, Jumpstart!, Kampala, Nursery School, School Development, STIREducation, Teacher, Teacher training, Uganda |
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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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November 18, 2015
Pupils’ entrepreneurship clubs have also now been established in all 15 schools that African Revival works with through the School Demonstration Garden Project. There are 50 members with equal number of boys and girls in each school. The club members have elected their leaders and are being guided by a teacher from each school. Having selected their crops to plant, which will form their micro enterprises, members are now undergoing training on business planning and management using the School Enterprise Challenge methodology by Teach A Man to Fish. These newly acquired business skills are to be implemented within their school garden project. This practical application will serve as a unique and useful experience for these pupils, equipping them with the skills to flourish in the business of farming, leading to increased professional stability when they leave school.
Otwe Pupils’ Entrepreneurship Club
The Otwe Primary SDG Pupils’ Entrepreneurship club is in high spirits. The bean crop that they planted back in March is doing very well, despite a prolonged drought and damage from stray animals. The rain has at last come, and the pupils are seeing the bountiful effects of their hard work. Soon they hope to harvest and have already started to scout out surrounding villages and towns to assess market potential and decide which marketplace will bring them the highest profit. Head of Marketing, Boniface Rubanga, explained in more detail how the club chooses where to sell:
“Me and the marketing team go to the market and ask for the middle man, and if we think that place can fit in our needs, we can choose that middle man to take the produce.
We prefer selling our things in kilos because with these cup things they can cheat you. For Kilos, you can weigh from here and you can easily come to market and know what you are going to get.”
The club has recently received training in marketing skills to support them in this aspect of the project. African Revival Project Officer Babra notes that one of the principle objectives is to enable them to be self-reliant in the future:
“We actually train them on how to produce, how to invest, how to add value to the products and how to market it […] our schools are located in the rural areas where the major activities are actually farming but the pupils have realized that the actual challenge faced is the marketing strategy.”
The skills transferred through the Pupil’s Entrepreneurship Club are helping to fill this gap in knowledge and ensure that pupils can effectively handle the post-production and financial aspect of farming.
And some of them already have interesting plans for how they will use the profits from the bean crop, a portion of which will be shared amongst group members (the rest will be added to the group account for future activities). Boniface wants to save his cut with the help of his mother, who is in the Parents’ VSLA group:
“I am in p6 and next year I am in p7. With these savings, it’s going to help me to buy some text books to help me prepare for the national examinations.”
While Boniface has ambitions to become a vicar when he leaves school, he also intends to keep on farming alongside this profession in order to provide his household with a secure source of nutrition, and generate a profit through selling the surplus. As such, the business skills he is learning through the Pupils’ Entrepreneurship Club will continue to serve him well in the future.
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Tagged Development, Gulu, School Development, School garden, Uganda |
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November 12, 2015
Babra Akello, aged 27, Is African Revival’s Agricultural Project Officer. Originally from Lira, she moved to Gulu together with her husband, with whom she has four year-old twins Jemimmah and Jesse. Babra completed a Certificate in General Agriculture at Busitema University in Soroti district, and is now studying part time for her degree in Agriculture at Uganda Martys University. After roles with the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction and Action Against Hunger, she joined African Revival in January 2012 as an Agricultural Extension Worker, before being promoted to Agricultural Project Officer. Here, Babra tells us more about her role with AR and her long-standing passion for farming.
In my degree in agriculture I’m learning a lot. For example, the aspects of agricultural development, sustainable management of resources and different techniques of growing crops and handling animals. It’s a broad course.
My responsibilities as Agricultural Project Officer are to ensure that I directly implement African Revival’s project with the beneficiaries in the schools that we work with and to offer trainings in agricultural practices, VSLA and business skills. And also I do represent AR at a parish level, district level and country level. Now, I am implementing the school demonstration garden in 8 schools in Amuru district, so ensuring that all the good agricultural practices are taught and ensuring that what I am training the beneficiaries, they are also learning and replicating at the household level. And with the pupil’s clubs, ensuring that they are taught business models so that they can be well acquainted with the life after school, so that in case they don’t continue with their studies they can be self-reliant and not dependent on their parents.
I have done many vocational trainings while working for African Revival and other organisations. I underwent defensive motorbike training. This is more of a safety thing, when you are riding, what you should observe, and actually how to overcome some of the faults or breakdowns in the motorcycle, so you can fix them without taking them to the mechanics. Just to keep you safe when you are driving.
During my free time I like interacting with the children. With my own, but even with other children. The children like me even if I reach home you may not even understand who is my child or who is not my child because every time I am surrounded by children so I just enjoy interacting with them in my free time. The children collect their homework and I actually help them because as a parent, you should guide them. Where we live, there are many children and they are going in the same school, and they converge together and we do it together.
Being a child-centred person, I so much enjoy working with the children involved in the SDG Pupil’s Entrepreneurship Club. I just enjoy focusing on the future of the children. And the other thing I enjoy most is also working with the community that African Revival works with. It is not easy in the north to find parents in the school, but what I like most about our project is that it brings the parents closer to the school, and makes them know the benefit of education. Children can’t move forward without the support of their parents, so therefore African Revival having their projects bring parents closer to the school makes me more interested, and I enjoy it.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinary doctor. In my village, we had only one veterinary doctor, and my father used to have animals, chickens, goats, cows, and each time this vet comes, he would treat the animals and he would be given a big sum of money. And I put into my mind that I must study and become a vet doctor so that I can treat these animals of ours on my own! And I wanted to actually out-compete him in the village so that I could also be the one getting such money from the communities around us. I would not say my dream changed, because I went for a certificate in general agriculture, whereby I also studied animals and crops at the same time, so I can even treat the animals.
I started farming when I was six years old. I planted maize in that first year and I got 13,000 shillings. And I remember my mother brought a chicken with that money, and the chicken multiplied so so much, and it helped me. And then when I was ten, I planted cassava, and it so happened that that year, there was too much hunger by the time my cassava was getting ready, and it helped in sustaining our family – some was sold and some was consumed.
I secured some land in Nwoya, so now I am doing my farming in Nwoya. At first I brought 6 achres, now I’ve added 4, so I own 10 acres with my husband as a family. I have a casual worker, so I am renting for the casual worker, but I plan this December to put up some small house there, so the worker can stay there. I very much want to expand, because with time I want to get back to farming. That’s the plan I have.
In the future, I want to farm commercially. I want to have a diversity of enterprises. Right now I have some perennials, I have some fruit trees, I have field crops, and I plan to integrate vegetables, so I want to have actually a diversity of enterprises. And soon I want to buy some animals. At the moment I am still using people’s labour in terms of hiring tractors and ox-ploughs. But already I have brought my own plough. So this December I am planning to buy the ox animals so that I do not have to continue hiring and keep more of the profits.
I am very much happy with the role that agriculture plays in my life. Agriculture provides a source of food for myself, my home and income generation. In Uganda, as a whole, agriculture plays a vital role and is the backbone of the country.
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Tagged Acholi, African Revival, Gulu, School Development, School garden, Uganda |
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September 29, 2015
Kuluse, 25, is a nursery teacher in Kamboli district in Northern Uganda. He has just finished his training in Early Childhood Development and nursery education at Gulu Primary Teaching College. Newly qualified and raring to go, Kuluse draws his motivation from his students’ passion for life and learning. Kuluse shared his teaching experiences with African Revival when we met him at a Jumpstart ! teacher training session, implemented by our Education team and funded by the UK Department for International Development’s UKAid match programme.
I first started as a part time teacher. Later I joined a training course to become a teacher. I joined ECD training because I felt love for the children. I never wanted to be a teacher, I was just fascinated by the childen’s behavior. I enjoy most of the learning areas, but I love observing the children’s lifestyles, seeing how they try to relate to each other and watching them develop as people. I enjoy watching them be creative, its the part of the teaching I really enjoy.
I enjoy teaching maths. It was one of my favourite subjects during my childhood, right until I reached my advanced level. I still took maths as part of my A level combination, so naturally I love maths.
There are challenges that you face as a teacher when joining a school. One of the challenges is that we are a young school, so we are still lacking a lot of materials, but we want to appreciate African Revival because they have always given us support. Another thing is the parents; they are not very encouraging, they were speaking badly about the school.
But the good thing is, the time I spend with the children in class, it makes me feel very relaxed. Sometimes I don’t even feel like releasing them to go home, because when I’m with them I’m enjoying my time. My children don’t want to leave. One time they said ‘teacher we are going with you !’ so they don’t feel like leaving. They enjoy it so much. Sometimes after the daily routine, they sit down and say, teacher now it is time to dance. The traditional cultural dances – they enjoy it so much.
I’ve really achieved a lot by attending this [Jumpstart !] training. In fact yesterday I didn’t sleep. I spent most of the night working on my learning aids, because I felt like if I spend the time now, I will make a lot of things that will help me in class.
During training we learnt about how we can take part in developing the school. We should sell our school by the commitment that we give to the children. We should not mind the current situation and work hard to build a better quality, and once the quality comes, it will sell the name of the school and attract the parents’ attention towards the school. Then there are other ways, like materials that we use. We shall be creative so that the money that we could have used on buying these learning materials, we save it for other things.
The best thing I got [from attending these workshops], is that I shared the experience with my colleagues. Things that I never knew how to do, I learned from my colleagues, because the trainers encouraged us to have group work activities, so we worked well in teams.
My wish for my school is first class knowledge. Most of the knowledge I’m having here, I want to go and share it with my fellow staff to make sure we take our school to the best level of education standards. I also wish that, in sometime to come, I shall be one of the authors of, or write a book that will help teachers know how to pursue their teaching dream.
Nursery education is the foundation of our nation.
If the foundation is built well, our dreams for Uganda will all come to pass.
Posted in News |
Tagged ECD, Education, Gulu, Jumpstart!, Nursery, School, Teacher training, Uganda |
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