Half way through 2014 we thought our rollercoaster ride in Gulu was coming to an end. I had been teaching in a local government primary school and what started out as just trying to help out and volunteer in a local government primary (teaching up to 140 kids in one classroom!) slowly progressed to running teacher training workshops in phonics. It was extremely frustrating to see children failing in primary school, even children who were sponsored by western charities, because they were not taught effectively. Chalk and talk methods of rote learning ruled the classroom and local teachers found that they were not taught effective methods of teaching in English (the national/education language in Uganda). I could see God birthing in me a new passion and desire to help the teachers and a pretty big vision (to raise literacy standards across primary schools in Gulu). Ironically, when I was beginning to pack my bags and say my goodbyes that’s when teachers really started to listen. I trained over 300 teachers in my last month in Gulu and attempted some whirlwind follow-up visits but it just wasn’t enough – I needed to go back and do this properly. So I am. I returned to Gulu in January 2015 and have trained more than 50 primary schools since then.
I am in the process of forming a charity (national NGO) called READ (Reading Education and Development) For Life. It has taken quite a long time to get the paperwork ready for this but… it’s now in the hands of authorities waiting for their perusal and hopefully approval. We have been donated the use of a classroom in a local government primary school (Holy Rosary Primary) which we are using as a resource centre/training room. We are extremely blessed to have this space which is very central in town. We have already hosted several training sessions for teachers here and have been madly working on locally made resources to kit-out the room as inspiration/motivation for what local teachers could do.
This year I have been extremely blessed to have two Peace Corps volunteers working alongside me (Katie Giseburt and Abby Bluth). They will be teaching year 1 students in the two local primary teaching colleges (our own curriculum which we are developing); as well as working on a few of our projects with local schools. I also have two incredible Ugandan teachers who I employ and have already developed local fame as incredible teachers/mentors and role models to other teachers. It is such a privilege to work alongside them.
The vision is to see all primary school children in Gulu improve significantly in their reading and writing; and to equip primary school teachers with the skills needed to teach them in a better way to lift the standard of education.
Although my vision is currently for Gulu, I have also been requested to do some training further afield in Jinja, Kampala, Kitgum and Wobulenzi. However my main focus is on my immediate area: Gulu.
I have also started to do a little advocacy work with the Ugandan Government to improve the teaching of reading and writing in schools; as well as to advocate for curriculum reform. This is a slow process, but certainly a necessary one.
Here’s an outline of the why and the how:
Thanks for taking an interest, I will try and post some regular updates on how we are getting on – the good, the bad and the ugly. Enjoy the ride!