My persistent nagging and questions to the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) paid off two weeks ago when they came to visit us in Gulu! The national director – yep that’s right the chief of Uganda’s future education – came personally with her team of curriculum specialists to hear from us in person, and to observe some of our work in local schools.
It certainly was a frenzied period of preparation, visiting two schools beforehand, helping teachers lesson plan, doing some practise observations, working on displays in the training room and preparing reports and a few presentations.
We had planned a gentle welcome on the afternoon of arrival, after all they had travelled 5 hours from Kampala to get here. The main ECD and early primary curriculum specialist didn’t really want to tread water or splash in the shallow end, she wanted to dive straight in, and so we did… lots of hard-hitting questions but certainly some stimulating and challenging discussions about our teaching methods, possibilities of replicating and how to improve reading levels on a national scale. Both the national director and curriculum specialist said they had travelled up to Gulu to learn from us, which was so humbling and encouraging to hear!
On the second day we had organised two school visits. The first school was Mama Cave Primary School with our dear friend and P1 teacher Mary Margaret who edited our local language phonics manual. Margaret is passionate about our work and was excited about the opportunity of being observed. She taught two lessons to our ‘guests’; the first was an English reading lesson and the second was in local language; all visitors did not speak Acoli, however it was such great teaching that they could read a little by the end of the lesson! There were a few moments in the second lesson when six-year-olds were independently reading sentences in their mother tongue without any assistance from the teacher – job done! This was more powerful than any presentation we could give, and certainly impressed our visitors, one in particular who could hardly stay seated and filmed most of the lessons.
It was an extremely exhausting, yet wonderful two days. I finished by sharing my ‘wish list’ on a national level for how to improve literacy education in Uganda. A little bold, but it was well received. We have been given some ‘homework’ from the NCDC to present reports of our work, with detailed data, and to also expand to further districts and document the success. We’re excited and so blessed that we had this opportunity to share with the NCDC and are hopeful that this dialogue and communication will continue.