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.
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