I first came to Africa to volunteer in three different local schools in Uganda. I found that my short time in three schools was making little impact and it was hard to build relationships in three schools in such a short time, so I then focused my time and energy in one school teaching mainly the P7 class at Valley View, on the outskirts on Jinja.
Teaching in a local school was quite an eye opener. I went full of fun ideas and resources (I think I was treating it a bit like 'summer camp', but the young Headmaster of the school, Hope, gently insisted that I focus on the curriculum, as children had to sit competitive exams for secondary schools and universities. Children learnt old fashioned English idioms off by heart and countless other, pretty useless, things. On paper it seemed that the pupils all had a good grasp of English, but unfortunately in conversations could say very little. Rote learning was the method of teaching and there was little opportunity for creative thinking or creating learners with problem solving skills. Unfortunately this means that pupils and young adults may leave the educational system with certificates and high marks but are unable to get good jobs as many organisations recognised the limitations to the government education system. This means that in lots of cases the educational system is failing many pupils.
What I am saying is not new. We now know that rote learning does not give children the skills for life long learning, but in the not so distant past it was how everybody learnt in the shiny Western world, so we can't be so quick to be critical. Now, in the National Curriculum and PYP/IB system, although recognising that sometimes there is still a place for rote learning (when learning the times tables, conjugating Latin verbs, reciting Poetry etc), good schools and teachers will use each activity in lessons to encourage and inspire creativity, leadership and co-operative skills in each pupil. As educationalists, we recognise that pupils need to leave school with relevant skills for the ever changing environment that we live in.
DevEd is a newly established NGO that believes relevant education is the key to development. As a teacher, I value the mission of this organisation. They are currently carrying out a participatory assessment in Northern Uganda and aiming to build a pilot school with a tailored curriculum to fit the needs and values of the Amolatar community. DevEd believes this will empower the community as the curriculum will be more relevant to learner. Sounds great, don't you think?
If you would like to find out more about DevEd's project in Northern Uganda, watch this cool wee video clip.
It is so easy to get lost in our own world, we which are the centre of, but here is a way you can easily get involved. DevEd and Love+Water Designs are hosting a T-shirt design competition to raise funds and awareness for the organisation. Cash prizes will be awarded to two chosen winners. Designs can be submitted on the Love+Water Designs website.
Please spread the word about the competition, especially those of you in Uganda. Thank you!
(PS - To make you smile-I have just realised my external hard drive (probably along with a number of other things that I need before September) has been packed by accident in one of my 22 boxes. Whoops! Time to use some problem solving skills! )