World Bank Mission-Take 2(Perspective)

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.

The World Bank Mission-Take One

A few weeks ago the World Bank Uganda Office invited me to observe and write about the mid-term review of its education programs in Uganda.
I don’t know about you, but when the World Bank invites me to observe and write about anything, I pick up and start. 
Before I get ahead of myself or you, let me explain what’s going on. The short version of the story is; in 2014, the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Education and Sports received USD 100M from Global Partnership for Education.
The Purpose of this grant is to implement the project dubbed, “The Uganda Teacher and School Effectiveness Project a.k.a UTSEP specifically targeting primary schools.
The World Bank  is the supervising entity of this grant. They are more like the big sister of the project, making sure everyone not only does their job to deliver but also provide technical support to the Ministry.
The project became effective in March 2015 and is expected to end by June 2018. So right now is its 17th Month birthday.
The purpose of the mid-term review in the words of Elizabeth Ninan, the Senior Education Specialist for the World Bank here in the pearl of Africa, was to; firstly take stock of the components that have gone well, address what hasn’t worked in terms of delay and implementation and figure out how every stakeholder can reorganize themselves better to get the work done”.
That’s really all the technical language I can master to explain this: my point is it’s a big deal. And by big deal I mean, teams flew in from across the world to attend this really draining exercise. But what makes it an even bigger deal, is who the beneficiary of this project is when it all falls in place – the children, teachers, and generally the entire country gets to reap the fruits of quality education.

The project has 3 main components which are:
1. Effective teachers. This is a fancy phrase for repackaging our educators to better deliver and improve the quality of their output. Specific emphasis is placed on Early Grade Reading and Early Childhood Development.
We all know that most of our public schools are highly ineffective especially because our teachers are not top on the list of the competent bunch. (We can talk about the issues our teachers are grappling with all day, but today is not that day)
According to numerous research and studies, 75% teachers in Uganda have been found to be wanting in terms of competence and knowledge of the subjects which they teach.
So this component is among others, about ensuring that our educators are better equipped for the job.

2. Effective Schools. This component involves training and equipping head teachers, deputies and members of school management committees with skills in administration and management under the auspices of Uganda Management Institute. 
I got to hear the testimony of one of the head teachers trained who heads Akamurei Primary School, in Amuria district, and I am telling you, this very enthusiastic lady, Eunice Omunyokol, seemed to have turned over a new leaf at her school.
When the school managers get better at their job, in no time those leadership skills will trickle down to the rest of the staff. She even wrote a poem about it.
Besides that, this component is the part where classrooms are constructed so we can ease the pressure on our mango trees. You could just turn on your TV and see a story of, “Under The Mango Tree Primary School.”

3. Implementation, support and capacity building: This is too technical for my amateur explanations but the most fun part of it is implementation of some ICT-based system that will strengthen capacity for inspection, monitoring and evaluation. 
If you have read my blog for a while you probably have picked up on my interest in our education system and all its disheartening shortcomings. 
Those opinions come from a place of frustration at how underwhelming it is to go through the education system in this country. So it was rivetingly refreshing to spend the week in an environment where I learnt that something is being done about the problem that is our education system.

The review has entailed a field visit to some of the rural schools implementing the project in Mityana District, attending of the Ministry of Education and Sports Annual Sector Review and meetings upon meetings going over the various components of the project all in the period of 9 days (from 1st- 9th September 2016).

My job was pretty easy, it’s the fun part. In two more parts, I will share my take on the project’s mid-term review, as I let you in on the work the World Bank is doing with Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports, and more importantly have as much fun while doing it.

Of #UgblogWeek Arrears and Academic Icons

A few weeks ago during #ugblogweek I asked my academic icon Joel to tell write for me a blog about his experience with school or generally his thoughts on education.
He was doing his final bar exams at the Law Development Center at the time and so this post comes weeks later.
He is my academic icon because, he is the only person I know who has excelled at everything in school and has the audacity to make it look easy.
Speaking of academia, today I started my 9 day mission with the World Bank education team, so I am posting this from my lunch break.
I spent the greater part of the day touring schools in rural Mityana district being both grateful and challenged all in one breathe.
I will be telling all soon,  but in the meantime, this is what Joel wrote.

Like most of you, that are reading this blog post I have been educated in Uganda for “almost” all my life.
So, you should not expect any novel story of a supporting teacher who kept track of me all the way from nursery till I graduated from the University.
Our teachers in Uganda (or at least those that taught me) are so detached from their pupils yet pupils spend more time in school than at home. As students, we generally looked at them as our mentors. This admiration often came to an end when the teachers would “cane” us much more than they would teach.
I attended three primary schools and two secondary schools. You shouldn’t rush to conclusions, I wasn’t stubborn and neither was I expelled. I had no say in which school I went to, this was reserved for my parents who made decisions that were presumed to be in my best interest.
In most of the schools I went to, I was regarded as one of the “darker” people, even in my class. I still don’t know why this was such a “thing,” because I never saw any “white” person in our class, save for the Arab and Indian we studied with.
This “color consciousness was extreme.  For example one day I walked in class and someone had drawn an incomplete face with only eyes on the black board. My name was written just below the face. I don’t know if you get the joke, but it meant that I was  as dark as the black board and only my eyes were the distinguishing feature.
The most memorable ones was whenever electricity went off during  “night preps.”  Students would then shout my name and ask, “guys where is Joel, we can’t see him.” I got used to it and I realized that bullying was an integral part of studying in Uganda. This isn’t something that you would go and report to the administration lest you risked being branded all sorts of names.
Besides such bullying, I failed to appreciate why we spend so much time in school. You will find that someone at university aged approximately 21 years, has spent a minimum of 15 years at school.  What have we been studying for 15 years that still doesn’t guarantee a job? Most often than not we become a statistic on youth unemployment. I therefore have a problem with what and how we are taught in Uganda. Emphasis has always been placed on memorizing and regurgitating what was given in class during exams. As opposed to understanding “why?” everything is that way.
It is only when I joined law school that I started to appreciate how rewarding it was to question everything. For example one could not study the current text of the Constitution without understanding what happened before the constitution was enacted. I believe that is what education should be truly about. It should reward originality of thought and encourage constant questioning, which are lacks in our education system as it is.
I believe that if we are to progress we need to challenge the status quo and ponder about how we can make it better. I honestly ask myself what I really studied in my “o’ levels,” for most of the time I was just going through the motions and studying to finish.
We need to change how we are taught.
Ps:Happy New Month.
Photo Credit :Google Images