Saturday, 22 October 2016

Some observations from Katuuso

We are still at Forest Park Resort. Today as I write my blog there is a school graduation ceremony and a church conference happening.  There is loud music with which the public address system is competing and there is feedback and audio squealing which is fairly unpleasant. There will be dancing, singing and praying and there is sure to be a hell and brimstone sermon later – even at a wedding that is essential!

I’m reflecting on my week of observations at Katuuso Primary. There is so much to be excited and encouraged about and so much potential. The teachers are so keen to use activity based strategies and that is supported fully by the school’s administration. The students are clearly used to group work and other peer teaching methods – they were not put on for my benefit as I have seen happen in other places.  This of course makes my job easier – the teachers are so willing to try new things – but also more difficult as I will be attempting to lift them from an already high standard!

I am slowly getting to know the teachers and learn their names. One I had mastered became redundant this week as the teacher, from pre-primary,  is now on maternity leave for the rest of the year. Friday she was active with the class looking like she had a small basketball tucked up her t-shirt, Saturday morning she was delivered of a healthy full-term baby. No name yet – that happens when the umbilical stump falls off. Luckily a replacement has been found – the pre-primary co-ordinator had asked me if I’d give a hand and I don’t think that would have ended well for anyone!

Pre-primary students making model domestic animals.
Pre-primary is taught in a mix of English and Luganda.  The Ugandan National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) actually specifies it should be in the students’ mother tongue but there is flexibility. I have been reading a report on the Breakthrough to Literacy project which seems to show that a student who learns to read and write fluently in their mother tongue first will be better equipped to learn English but I need more information before I discuss this with the school administration. I do know that much of the initial research was done in Uganda. So that will be an interesting internet research project over the next few weeks.  Another will be finding free early literacy and numeracy apps for iPads or tablets and maybe a foray into trialling tablet technology with the pre-primary students. The Head Teacher has certainly enjoyed the apps I have already.

Primary 2 listening well
Most of my classroom observations have been in the upper primary classes. The common term for classroom observation here is “supervision” which has unfortunate overtones but I guess is better than “crits” which was what we had in the Victorian Technical school system in the 1980s when I started teaching.  I have been so encouraged to be able to honestly give such positive feedback along with small small suggestions for change. Teachers have been generous with their time and students have barely noticed me. It augurs well for my work here.

Primary 5 mathematics
Community expectations will possibly be one of the biggest battles we will have.  Parents expect that students will be beaten into submission, not treated with the kindness and gentle encouragement that seems to be the hallmark of the teachers here at Katuuso Primary. More sport and cultural activities – music, art, drama and dance – would be good in the curriculum but parents don't spare their children from working at home so that they can go to school to play!  These are things to work on.

I had two days away from Katuuso this week. On Tuesday Steve and I accompanied the Head Teacher on visits to several teacher training colleges the Mityana District.  It was a long day and some difficult driving for Steve. The TTCs reminded us strongly of Katoke TTC which was one of our haunts when we lived in Bukoba. (Our friends Rhona and Sheila worked there.)  The colleges here I think were even more run down and lacking in resources. We were able to get the colleges’ programs and will go back when the trainees return from school practice and interview the most promising of the graduates. We may be able to have them teach a model lesson at Katuuso as part of the interview process.

On Friday Steve and I went in to Kampala to get money, have the car serviced and start the M+E (monitoring and evaluation) process for my work here. We had a lovely day in “town” – the best coffee and bread we’ve had in three weeks! But the driving was harrowing. The restoration of the car has made it run very well but took soooo long that we were returning in the dark – something Steve is not keen to do again ever!

More soon and best wishes to you all dear readers, Jenny

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Getting started

I am easing into work! Last week I visited the two schools along with the CEO and several Board members from Australia. It was all very hectic with too many people wanting to talk with the same people I wanted to talk with so I hung back and listened and waited. It was good. I need to get right back into listening mode, for the first month at least. Otherwise I will have very little worthwhile to say.

The students here are much more used to white faces than my children in Bukoba. There are often visitors from Australia and several Kampala office staff, who visit the schools regularly, are white. There is also a young American Peace Corps volunteer resident at the Katuuso school so it is only my age that makes me a novelty – everyone else is so young!

I am currently trying to understand the mysteries of the Ugandan primary education curriculum. It has all been rewritten over the last 5 to 10 years to make it more relevant and less content dense. It is still very academic with lots of memorisation of facts. The lower primary years should be taught in local language but with the overriding imperative for children to speak and understand English there is compromise. Upper primary is all in English but there is still far too much memorisation of definitions with no real understanding. This is all a major headache that has no easy solution. The children certainly don’t get enough time to play.

I am still to get to know the teachers at Katuuso. They are so busy with classroom and extra activities. Steve keeps reminding me to be patient – I’ve only had 3 days at the schools! But I am so keen to get on. I have done one lesson observation, at a teacher's request, already and given feedback. I need my Tanzanian colleague Josiah Karwihula in my ear saying “Slow down Madam, it will be fine Madam!” I will let you know how we progress.

On the home front we now have a car – a 1998 RAV4 four door with an alarm that reacts to loud music. The car makes us far more independent. So far Steve has done all the driving. I will need to psych myself up to brave the Uganda roads and traffic police.

We are staying at a guest house in Buloba while we wait for our house to be ready. The place where we are living – Forest Park Resort – was host to a wedding with 1200 people on Saturday and a Uganda Independence Day party on Sunday. Both occasions saw locals dressed in their finery both traditional and modern. We were the only white faces in sight. There were many cars in the car park with ours not the only one to have its alarm set off by the booming sound system.  We hope to move to our new home next weekend. It is a newly constructed two-bedroom unit in a compound with five others. Ours has been put on a “hurry up” and will be finished before the rest. So we will have the compound to ourselves at night to begin with and fundis working on the other units on tap during the day to get anything fixed that isn’t working as it should.

Sorry, I took no pictures, so I've put in a couple of Steve's. I will try to remember to take some for my next post.

Best wishes and I hope you’ll make a comment, Jenny.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

See Steve's

I have been occupied doing other stuff and Steve has written a lovely blog on our activities so I will send you there!

For reasons known only to Google we are both now - weird! But the old addresses should still get you there.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

We're off to Uganda!

Steve and I leave for Uganda on September 28 to spend 12 months with the School for Life education project just west of Kampala. We are very excited and will let you know more as we settle in and learn more ourselves.

You'll find more about School for Life at their website.

And here is some more about the founders of School for Life Foundation, Annabelle and David, who have recently won the CALI (Community, Action, Leadership and Inspiration) award .

The CALI Award is awarded to inspiring, awesome people who are creating positive change. It brings you every day heroes, who are making the world a better place.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Back to Africa?

It's a year since I finished up at Umoja in Arusha, Tanzania. I've put my hand up for a placement in Malawi doing some teacher training later this year. Hopefully posts in coming weeks will tell you more. Come what may I will miss this year's election frenzy - Lizzy, Sophie and I are having a holiday in Germany in June / July.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Summing up

I have finished at Umoja and it’s time to sum up and move on.

Friday was the last day of my assignment. It was a big day to cap off a big year! 

Friday was "Parents Day". At Umoja reports are handed out at Parents Day when each student has to invite along a parent, sibling, other relative or friend and the report is given them to read together. Then they discuss the result (a percentage score) and the comment with the teachers.  It is an excellent system. I chatted to all the parents though I think their interviews with the local teachers would be more instructive

I’ve done all the admin & paper work – final report; exit interview; … and I’ve been farewelled by staff and students with songs, poem and dancing

I’ve had a wonderful 12 months working at Umoja and have enjoyed all the side benefits of living in East Africa. The only thing I would have like and couldn’t have was a trip to Zanzibar – too dangerous in AVI Security’s assessment – but I have been there so it’s not too grievous a loss.

 ** Blogpost not finished yet but thought I'd post the beginning. It's an unusual one because other people were taking the pics and I'm actually in some!

Afternoon tea - I brought more food than they could eat!

Many farewell speeches today - at assembly, Parents' Day and then the Official Farewell

The students sang - "I am woman" , Celine Dion's "Goodbye's the hardest word" and the Tanzania National Parks song.

Michael DJed the farewell and gave everyone an opportunity to speak

The teachers danced too - the students always enjoy that!

Michael wrote me a poem -  Ombeni, Christina and Magreth read a verse each.

They gave me many presents including a framed picture of me with the students

Update on the vertical garden - over the holidays some of the seeds we planted germinated and we will have a crop of chinese cabbage and lettuce leaves to pick soon. We need to drill more holes in the guttering for drainage - the soil is saturated! Some of the best plants grew in the soil pile. The beans in the yoghurt pots have been transplanted from our "good soil" pile.

My final “tourist” adventure was a trip to the northern crater region of Ngorongoro Conservation Area to catch a glimpse of Ol Doinyo Lengai. It was a long day but we had excellent views.  Two of the AVIs I was with intend to climb it before they return home. 

Lake Empakaai

Ol Doinya Lengai

Next stop Namibia for 3 weeks of birding with Steve; then home to Hamilton to contemplate terms 3 and 4 at Baimbridge College. I’ll leave this for now and resume trying to cram all the stuff I want to take home into one small suitcase with a 20kg weight limit!

* I've decided it can't be done. I now have a Hong Kong Shopper and extra kilos at Tsh10,500/= each.

2 more weeks of holiday!

Photographic highlights safariing with Lyn and Ian.

Tarangire NP

Mto wa Mbu 

 Ian buying more curios


 Engaruka Upper Pre-school building project

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Lake Manyara NP

Arusha Coffee Lodge


Mount Kilimanjaro NP

 Lyn doubting the wisdom of climbing the mountain!

Arusha NP