Now that we got the technical aspects of The World Bank mid-term project review out of the way in take one, allow me share the perspective I have got from my field experience as an observer on this mission.
Going to the field mission was by far been the most mind altering part of this experience, and I mean that literally.
The field visit was to some of the rural schools implementing the project in Mityana district which is approximately 77 kilometres, by road, west of Kampala, Uganda’s capital.
If you have been to rural Uganda, the plight of the children in these villages is not lost on you. I grew up in a village, but still the dire state of their school structures and the reality of their bare feet gave me a fresh set of eyes.
The first stop was at Kalangaro Church of Uganda Primary School, a beneficiary of the Early Childhood Development sub component of the project.
This is the practical equivalent of preschool or nursery School to the urban child. These children below the age of 6 years are given a school experience by well-trained care givers.
The children get to have foundational teaching, even though they cannot afford the luxury of kindergarten.
Uganda’s Universal Primary Education (UPE) program in its enactment in 1997 mainly targeted provision of primary education. Therefore, early childhood development, ensures that a child doesn’t walk straight from home into a primary one classroom. I don’t know about you but personally, this is a great addition to the UPE program and hopefully it will improve the completion rates, because every child deserves a great start in life right?
The caregivers have been trained to use local materials to provide an attractive environment and children have been drawn to keep coming to school because the class is beautiful.
Their curious creativity is enhanced because, they get to make toys and dolls with their teachers. They may not be familiar with Winnie the Pooh or Spiderman but, it definitely leaves these little ones in a better place than idling at home.
At pre-school, they also get to learn about hygiene, their neighborhoods, how to express themselves and have a consistent routine.
During my visit, I spoke to Jovia Nakatte, and this little girl told me that she wants to grow up to be a “Madam” which is code for teacher, and it got me thinking that her teacher must be doing something right to invoke such inspiration. Who knows, I may have met my children’s future teacher
Early Childhood Development, maybe my favorite part of this project but it’s in close competition for my affection with Early Grade Reading and am about to tell you why.
If you are African enough you have heard the phrase, “if you want to hide something, from an African, put it in a book”.
That may be true to some degree, but not for the reasons fronted, like laziness and a downright lack of interest.
What happens is, the average Primary Seven graduate from the public school system in this country can hardly read. For various reasons ranging from a lack of reading materials, to the inability of their teachers to teach them how, to a school environment that isn’t conducive, the reasons are extensive.
We visited Kamusenene Primary School and sitting through a session of Early Grade Reading, and with much amusement I invented my own, simile, “as enthusiastic as Kisakye Justine”
This girl had a zeal about her that went beyond having visitors in the room.
She was excited to be learning how to read and her teacher excited to have finally been trained to teach her how to do so.
Not along way from now, people looking to hide something from Kisakye Justine, may have to find a place that is not a book.
I did say in the beginning that the field work gave me perspective. After that day in Mityana, I attended meetings and the experience of the field put the discussions in context.
In the board room, my non-expert brain was subjected to technical terms and phrases and I was playing catch-up with the help of google.
Education has never sounded so complex and yet informative all at once.
If this level of discussions between The World Bank, Ministry of Education, Global Partnership for Education , all the Education Development Partners and different stakeholders ( side bar:I never imagined myself to be the kind of person who writes the word, ‘stakeholder’) means Nakatte Jovia, is getting one step closer to becoming ‘a madam’, Kisakye Justine and her class will be a generation of Ugandans who can read, the children at St Matia Mulumba Primary School Magoga get functional classrooms, and every other targeted primary school/child benefits from this project, then there is no other place I would rather have spent my week. Who knows maybe we may live to see this Vision2040.