Ever since our first visit to Kabale in 2007, we have been working with teachers in several nursery, primary and secondary schools to help them develop more active teaching methodology. This started with subject teachers working with their Ugandan counterparts to prepare and teach lessons together or to do mutual observations. When we were able to use the internet, we helped the teachers to access relevant materials. We also donated textbooks and teaching guides as Ugandan classrooms have very few resources.
Life can be very tough for teachers in such a poor country as Uganda. Despite the passion for education exhibited by children and their parents, teachers are actually undervalued, poorly paid and often have quite low morale. Many have more than one job in order to make ends meet and that is on top of very busy lives looking after large families, growing their own food, fetching water etc. The prevalence of illness (e.g. HIV, malaria, typhoid) adds to their burden, especially if families have to look after children of relatives who have died.
Classes are often very large, with over 100 students in some cases. Most classrooms are poorly equipped (sometimes with nothing at all except wooden desks crammed with students and a pitted blackboard) and students don’t usually have textbooks. Thus the dominant modes of teaching have traditionally been copying from the board and dictation in order that pupils have their own notes to learn by heart. The examination system is based on testing this learning. However, the Ugandan school curriculum is in the process of being reformed with more emphasis on active learning and skills development. Given the huge challenge this poses, it is clear that progress will be slow.
Since 2018 we have been collaborating with another UK charity to support the development of a Community of Practice involving 11 schools in Kabale (2 nursery, 4 primary and 5 secondary schools). The Feilden Foundation is a small UK charity, an offshoot of the architecture firm Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, whose overriding passions are Architecture, Education and Africa. They are dedicated to using their professional expertise to provide skills to enhance educational infrastructure across Africa and in so doing to transfer knowledge and promote community involvement. Their first major building programme was in a school on Lake Bunyonyi near Kabale where we have collaborated with them to provide educational expertise.
Both charities are now involved in a 3 year programme funded by the Feilden Foundation to provide an exemplar model of ways in which a community of schools can work collaboratively to achieve improvements in active teaching and learning, in behaviour management including the elimination of corporal and harsh punishments, and in school and classroom environments. This is intended to support the national reform programme.
In each school, two teachers act as Leaders of Teaching and Learning, receiving training and then modelling their new practice and disseminating their learning to their colleagues. Whilst on our annual visit to Kabale in 2018 and 2019, we observed lessons in the 11 schools and offered supportive feedback and training sessions. We are pleased to have seen very good progress on active teaching during our visit in 2019 and look forward to focusing on behaviour management in 2020.
The Project Director, Tumuhekyi Peter, has declared their determination to sustain the project focus after its 3 year funded programme ends, writing “We have not yet reached the peak of our struggle, but we are on course. The purpose is to make the school environment child-friendly, to produce skilled and employable learners with good grades, and to put teachers at the centre of this revolutionary struggle. Our children’s welfare, safety, well-being, survival and development are a key focus of our project.”
Our strong partnership with schools in Kabale and our involvement in the Community of Practice provide a very good opportunity for UK teachers and retired teachers to join us in Kabale and share expertise with Ugandan colleagues who are very keen to develop their practice and meet the challenges of their curriculum reform.
As we have been visiting for 14 years, we have very good contacts locally for transport, accommodation etc and have made strong friendships. Anybody joining us would not have any trouble making arrangements, although there is no financial support as we are all self-funded volunteers.
We cannot overstate how rewarding it is to contribute to schools so much less fortunate than our own and to work with their inspiring students.
If you are interested in getting further information, please email Liz Walton (Chair of Trustees) on firstname.lastname@example.org.