A time to vent…


A P5 (year 4) class at a local municipal (town) primary school in Gulu, Uganda.

I wasn’t planning on posting again so quickly but, returning home elated and frustrated at the same time, Dan suggests that I ‘vent’ by blogging – so here goes…

I visited the local government primary teacher’s college today to do a little lecturing in phonics with the second year students. In true African fashion I just entered the class that didn’t have a teacher and taught. Whilst loitering later on in the staffroom there were two things that got my attention – one caught my eyes and the other my ears. Firstly my eyes: Around the wall were a series of large A3 laminated signs. They looked professional and possibly from a recent workshop. These signs clearly displayed lots of modern teaching and learning pedagogy: self and peer assessment, different discussion techniques, all the stuff that we learn at a western university. I also spot another muzungu – an American with a non-government organisation working mostly with ICT and Science – and overhear some of his conversation with the deputy. He was discussing that he couldn’t find all the science resources he needed, such as a microscope. My thoughts in my head went something like this: ‘A microscope! A microscope! Does he realise he’s in northern Uganda! And if by some slim chance they happen to find these elusive microscopes in the teaching college I don’t know of any local government primary school that would have a stock of microscopes on hand for their science lessons with 100 pupils.’ And then don’t get me started on ICT – the majority of schools in the municipality don’t even have electricity! Without a doubt the biggest need is to teach these children how to read! Last week primary children all over the municipal completed ‘welcome tests’ – a nice way to welcome them back to the new term. I scanned the P4 (year 3) English results at my local school and I thought I was looking at a UK weather chart: 02, 03, 00, 04, 05, 02 – nope, not temperature readings, these are percentage results. Primary school children cannot read! And primary school teachers do not know how to teach these children how to read in English. It is an ongoing problem that just keeps snowballing as they get older. And what do our wonderful non-government organisations do to help the education levels? Pour thousands into developing ICT, Science, even teaching pedagogy practices that I doubt will make its way to the classrooms. Do you think discussing a ‘traffic light approach’ where a child will colour in green, red or orange on their paper to show their level of understanding is really where we should be focusing our attention? (Besides, there’s not even any traffic lights around here!) Who’s making these decisions and where are they based?

This is Africa! Let’s focus on the greatest need in primary education – teaching reading – and do it in a culturally accessible way.

On to the elated point, to leave on a high, the municipal schools inspector has organised for me to teach some of the local government teachers phonics as a way to teach reading. First training day is Friday where I will be teaching Layibi Division (one of the four divisions of the municipal). Five teachers from each of the seven government and five private primary schools have been invited to attend. Bring it on!

One response »

  1. Sook says:

    I agree with u Jodes. Forget about the science labs and pc! More Biff, Chip and Kipper books!

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