Going to School

Friday, 27 March 2015 | 07:00

In another chapter of “finding out what else the mission does”, I took my last day, Wednesday, to attend with Taryn Dieckmann both the Nakaale primary school and the preschool. Both works are part of the Karamoja Education Outreach (KEO). By the end of Tuesday I was able to wrap up my normal work, so it was a nice conclusion.

Primary School

The Nakaale Primary School is one of the government-run schools. For a couple of hours in the morning, KEO teachers help teach lessons and train the teachers. Classes may not be quite what you are accustomed to - light is provided by what comes through the windows, the buildings are brick/concrete and topped with corrugated steel, and the chalkboards are smooth, dark concrete embedded in the wall. Well, smooth assuming they aren’t damaged and full of pock marks. Class sizes vary widely, with P5 having about 15 students and P1 having more than I could count. The P5 lesson that I observed involved using Bible stories to build literacy, particularly vocabulary. The lessons involve both English, as the official language of Uganda, and ŋaKarimojoŋ, the local language.

For reference, here’s a couple of photos of the school (thanks to Taryn, since I totally forgot to take photos while I was there, even though I had my camera).

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Nakaale+Primary+School+Class.jpg

Preschool

KEO also runs a preschool next to the clinic. When I think of preschools, I think of very young children, but that’s not always the case. You’ll find that where someone is at in the school system really depends on at what age they started. If a child is kept at home to help take care of siblings, they may be starting school later than others, so students studying the same subjects may be of different age ranges but similar capabilities.

Since I went to the primary school first, it was getting towards the end of the preschool day, which is only held in the morning, by the time we arrived. I got to observe the last bit of the teaching rotation, especially the “top class” which was practicing their writing. Then we broke into “free time”, when the teachers get out picture books and discuss them with the students. Here’s a photo of me holding a book on oceans. It turned out be be a bit complicated, so we switched to a book of African wildlife as we discussed the names for local animals and the differences between a few of them. Yeah, that’s about the limit of my teaching capability in this context. Thanks to Erika for taking the photo without my knowledge. :)

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We closed the day with singing and dismissal. I didn’t know the words, so I just hummed the tunes and clapped as I picked them up. :)

I’ve always had mixed feelings about preschool. But here it definitely has a place. Consider the difference between maybe eight students per teacher, in a very nurturing environment, at the preschool and the dozens of students in the P1 level (the entry class) at the primary school. The interaction and attention levels are vastly different. So too are the students’ interest. For example, during free time at the preschool, some of the students wanted to continue to practice their writing on the chalkboards. And that’s an option. How you could I not smile at that request? Sometimes joy is found in the little things. These students will enter P1 far more prepared than their counterparts who did not have that preschool preparation.

Oh, and I have to admit, it was fun spending a morning with a whole bunch of excited kids. :)