Tag Archives: Kilimanjaro

Irene: Tap dancer turned Teacher Changemaker

Posted on by Sophie Hicks


Jan 2016 7

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.

DSC09419The 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.

_MG_1315Irene 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”.  

Irene_Kevin_RobinahShe 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!”

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kilimanjaro: the climb of a lifetime!

Posted on by Sophie Hicks

643900_10151093237226985_2031015318_nA procession of lights, burning like candles in the black of the night, is winding its way up the side of the final peak. It is reassuring to see the lights, a sign that the long road to the summit is well travelled. I look up to the roof of Africa – shaded in luminous tones of grey and silver under the glow of a full moon – and feel the weight of the challenge to come.

It is summit night, and my group is just about to set-off. Our guide woke us up at 1 am and eased us into a waking state with warm cups of hot chocolate, salted popcorn and sweet porridge. We do a final check to make sure we have all the necessary equipment and provisions, adjust our many layers to protect us against the cool of the night – and we’re off !

551672_10151093242321985_1095448802_nIts been a long journey to this point – and not just geographically. I started fundraising almost a year before the trip, organising a black-tie ball for my community, which proved a great success ! I sold tickets in advance for £10 a pop, which instantly raised a lot of money. On the night, after an interactive presentation of the challenge and charitable cause, a band played while I sold cakes and raffle tickets. I received some very generous donations and, equally as important, my guests had a great time ! It took hard work and sustained effort to raise the money, but the satisfaction of reaching the final goal was worth it, especially since the funds were going to such a good cause – in this case an education project in Tanzania that aimed to improve school infrastructure.

404143_10151093241781985_985586758_nThe Kilimanjaro adventure also marks my first voyage out of Europe ! This seemed a little daunting at first, but the great thing about doing a challenge like this, is that you are surrounded by people in exactly the same situation. I became very close to my fellow climbers. We supported each other first during the fundraising stage, then on the plane to Kenya and finally all the way up to the top. Together, we all failed to contain our excitement as we caught the first glimpse of majestic Kilimajaro from the bus. We shared our successes, our fears, our first Tanzanian meal – by summit night, I had made friends for life. And those friends count when you’re on the side of the highest mountain in Africa !

Since starting the climb six days ago, we have hiked through a stunning range of unique ecosystems. First, we came to dense rainforest, high canopy ceilings accentuating the echoing cries of the wildlife – monkeys, insects, birds of every size and colour – that call the biome home. The tall, elegant trees shrink to squat shrubs on the second day, huddled together in dense masses across a foggy landscape. But the scenery opens up again once we reach the moorland, with its wide horizons of peaty soil covered with heather, bracken and moss. Here, the air is clear and crisp and views across an ocean of clouds are breath-taking. Towards the end of the hike, we cross over into another dimension – a bizarre desert moonscape, inhospitable, with sludge grey dunes of dust that stretch as far as the eye can see. At night, temperatures drop to below freezing point, and I’m infinitely grateful I brought that extra sleeping bag liner ! And while the temperatures don’t rise, the dismal landscape slowly lifts, transforming into a snowy wonderland and signalling that we have reached the beginning of the end; the base of the highest peak and the final push to the summit…

578343_10151093240286985_430173984_nWe are half way up now. I try to maintain a meditative state of mind, focusing solely on the steady flow of my breath and the swinging coattails of the person in front. We round a corner just in time to see the rising sun. Somebody plays ‘Circle of Life’, from the Lion King, on their phone while we admire the golden hues of light illuminating the vast planes of the African Savannah. I expect a dramatic cliff to take us to the top of Kilimanjaro, but in reality, the climb is the opposite – a gradual incline that requires infinite endurance, a strong body and even stronger mind to conquer. I briefly falter and want to turn back, but the wonderful porters urge me on, one taking my bag, the other offering me some sweetened tea. Their compassion makes all the difference, because before long I see a flash of green amidst white glacier – the signpost marking the summit. The relief of reaching the top is almost overwhelming, and I try to savour the beauty of the scene, viewed from the roof of Africa.






Posted in News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment