We’re joining you…

Dear World,

We are praying for you! And joining you in partial lock-down…

Today Ugandan schools closed for 30 days. Although Coronavirus (COVID-19) hasn’t reached Uganda yet, it has reached our borders and the government is trying to limit the spread by imposing a partial lockdown for 30 days.

All over the country parents are struggling for unexpected transport fees to return their children from boarding schools. Schools have closed; churches have closed; weddings and funerals limited to 10 people present; travelling markets are banned; along with sporting events; and drinking bars.

Tomorrow morning we will be closing our college for 30 days; giving our students homework and a lot of advice on how to protect themselves and their family against the virus (if it comes).

At READ for Life, the current plan for staff is to still visit the office, make some resources, do some online learning, write some lesson plans and catch up on all those jobs we never get a chance to do! Unless, of course, our restrictions are tightened.

Almost all expat short-term volunteers have left for their home countries, and there has been a crazy rush to book flights before airlines stop. There is a general feeling of anxiety and uncertainty in the air.

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Painter allergic to paint

We’ve hired a painter to do some work at our workplace. He’s always wearing a bandana around his mouth and nose. I asked him about it today, and he tells me he is allergic to paint. He’s a great painter though!

Dan

New Year’s Gift

Christmas is over. Presents have been opened. Some are in use, some consumed, others returned or ready to be regifted. Some of you may have opted for less tangible presents which help improve the environment or the life of others. Today I’m asking you to consider giving a New Year’s gift to children in northern Uganda – the gift of education.

Watch our short video below to find out about READ for Life and how we are improving children’s literacy through teacher training. We can’t do this alone!

 

Surviving the cold…

It’s FREEZING! But we’re here!

Excited to report that a few days in Myron has settled in wonderfully to visiting England (he’s already told us he wants to live with one of our friends and we can go back to Gulu alone – so clearly all your prayers must be working!)

Myron has possibly adjusted better than us to the weather – can’t quite remember it ever being this cold! We are walking around like catalogue pictures donning our friends’ wardrobes: brilliantly kitted out by about four people and three charity shops 🙂

Have tried to ease in slowly, as slowly as can be when that includes a trip to see Paddington on Ice at Winter Wonderland. Although I think a visit to Waterstone’s book store is also high on the highlights so far too. And finally Dan can say he has been on the dodgem cars with Myron (he was pipped at the post for this claim to fame by his cousin and uncle a year ago in Australia).

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Final preparations… UK here we come!

Tonight we fly to the UK! This will be Myron’s first trip to England and second time to leave Uganda. It has been a little over three years since I visited the UK and connected with my UK friends, and five years for Daniel!

We feel we have three primary places of ‘connection’: Uganda, Australia and England, a reflection of our somehow-nomadic life. We are stretched over three continents but are really looking forward to reconnecting with many close friends over the next month.

Last year when we visited Australia Myron found this particularly challenging – understandable with so many new things to see and experience! We are sure Myron will also find England a little challenging and possibly over-stimulating. In an attempt to prepare him for this new adventure we have made a little cardboard book to introduce him to some of the people we will see in England. As we prepare for our journey can you please join us in praying for Myron: for minimal tantrums and meltdowns and for a smooth journey and holiday. They he may feel safe, for incredible resilience and that he will handle the change very well.

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We need teachers!

Myron attends a small ‘homeschool co-operative’ in Gulu. The phrase ‘homeschool co-operative’ doesn’t really describe it well: it’s more of a school supported by like-minded parents – many who are missionaries and several Ugandan parents who want an alternative education for their children. We currently employ a few Ugandan teachers and follow a UK curriculum.

Myron does love it. He is extremely social (if you haven’t realised this already) and loves interacting and learning with the other children there.

However this may all end very soon. Unfortunately one teacher has left to seek employment in Kampala, another is about to follow at the end of the year and currently we can’t find any quality teachers and mentors willing to join us!

Parents are involved in a wide range of services to the community, ranging from a parent who is a lawyer and works on child protection; a geologist who works with increasing access to water and community bore holes; a speech therapist helping to mentor and establish a local speech therapy outreach; church pastors; parents working in the area of discipleship and many others.

The video below is several  months old now (one teacher in the film has already left, another finishes at the end of this week), however it does help to capture the feel of the school.

We have moved to a beautiful new premises and we now need some more teachers! I have been helping occasionally with teacher supervisions, however I can’t throw myself into this project when I have our own organisation READ for Life to oversee.

Some of you may also think, how odd – we have a teacher’s training college but can’t find quality teachers! Our college focuses on early years (teaching pre-school age children), and the greatest need at the moment at the homeschool co-operative is to be teaching primary-age children (6-9 year olds).

This post is a request for prayer: please pray that we can find some teachers pretty soon! A combination of a couple of great Ugandan teachers who are quick learners and willing to try something new, as well as an expat teacher who can help mentor these new teachers.

The alternative looks pretty grim: we may all be forced to homeschool full time, which for some will force them out of the country. And for those who will try to juggle homeschooling and our work here, our work here will certainly suffer. If you do have any leads, please get in touch!

And… pray!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bedside reading chats over liver

invitation graduationNursery graduation number two

Today I represented our team at READ for Life as the ‘Chief Advisor’ at one of the local nursery schools we are partnering with. I was actually looking forward to attending this particular graduation because children at the school did brilliantly in our recent Early Grade Reading Assessment. The school climbed from position number 18 on the ladder to second place this year! And the P1 class came equal first, reading 56 words per minute – a great achievement for this new school branch.

The rain hindered the morning preparations. I arrived two hours late (thinking I would be about on time), but of course I was early. I was quickly ushered into the director’s office/home. Her living room was completely empty of furniture since it had all been relocated to the school field for the graduation celebration (I later enjoyed sitting on her lounge chair all afternoon as I took on the role of ‘chief advisor’).

With no furniture left, I was whisked into her bedroom where I was asked to take a seat (on her bed) and then served a plate of liver and a glass of drinking water. Yes, that’s correct – a plate of liver (with no accompaniments). As I boldly munched on the liver (my first time) she then climbed up on the bed too and inquired how their school went in the reading assessment. So… both reclining on her comfy bed and me nibbling the plate of liver, we then discussed her school and their improved performance.

When my plate was done (I was pretty proud about that) and the rain had eased, it was time to walk down and begin the proceedings.

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Bwaak bwaak, congratulations!

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Our diaries are quickly filling with invitations to graduations – nursery (preschool) graduations. These graduations are a pretty big deal in northern Uganda and today was the first one for us to attend for the year. There are 12 children graduating from their third year of nursery at this particular school and parents have gone ‘all out’ to congratulate their children with these gifts. I would say that children receive more gifts from their nursery graduation than they do at Christmas time. I wonder which child will be enjoying chicken for dinner… Henny Penny wasn’t wrapped up but is waiting patiently to be awarded as a prized gift.

‘Injustice’ under the leaves

Last night a local thief was killed (suspected mob justice) not that far us for trying to kill a goat.

My regular boda driver recounted some of the brief details to me before taking Myron to school this morning. During dinner tonight Dan asked Myron (attempting to be tactful): Myron, was there a man laying on the road, maybe sleeping, on your way to school?  I hope you didn’t see him. (I tried to whisper to Dan that Myron probably knows all about it). 
Myron’s reply: No. he was dead. And he wasn’t there, they had buried him under some leaves.
And… moving on to a different conversation…

Mob justice is quite a crass way of describing this act. One local journalist believes calling it ‘justice’ is an affront to justice and prefers to call it ‘mob action’. Unfortunately, ‘mob action’ is common in Uganda and the latest statistics (from the Criminal Investigations Directorate) claim that six people are killed each week in Uganda from this method.

Advice from a student…

Madam, the deputy head teacher came up to me and asked me how we have been trained from here in managing children. He wants to know how I have been handling children in the classroom and what I am doing apart from beating the children. He wanted to know some ideas and to ask advice.

From one of our student teachers. The day after ‘zero day’ it was encouraging to hear that school leaders are going to our students for advice!