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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Volunteering at St Zoe's

Rebecca Nixon and Naomi Perryman volunteered through Project Trust to spend a year at St Zoe's schools which are about 3 from Kampala Uganda. Here is Rebecca's report on the first two months.

Firstly let me talk about the teaching; the secondary school children are all very welcoming and friendly and keen to learn new things. Their English is of high standards and although at first my farmer accent posed several problems, I can now have a proper conversation with all of them talking at a normal speed. I was surprised at the high level at which they are studying, with topics I studied at A Level being covered in S3- Year 9 equivalent! In fact I have found that there is a high standard in all subjects covered throughout the curriculum. In general the students find Mathematics very challenging, so I am trying my best to improve their understanding through attending prep every night, where I am able to work with students on a more individual basis. I have literally gone to the extent of teaching Algebra in my sleep, much to Naomi’s horror! I have also taught Primary 7 several times, who finished their Primary Leaving Examinations last week. They were a very intelligent and eager class so I hope to see lots of them in S1 next year; they have also encouraged me to become more involved in the Primary section in the new academic year.

Extra curricular activities in the School are very popular with children across both Primary and Secondary taking part. Recently new sports equipment has been purchased, including javelin, discus, shot put, badminton sets, footballs and netballs. After school the children and teachers alike enjoy using the equipment encouraging interaction and of course physical exercise. It was lovely to see the Director in his suit coaching the boys in discus and shot put, using his athletic skills acquired from his primary days, to beat the boys throws. Three girls’ bikes have also been purchased and Naomi and I have spent time after school teaching the girls to ride bikes; of which I found slightly easier than Naomi- my 5ft11 height proving and advantage in supporting some of the slightly larger girls. It is really good to see the girls determined to learn something that every single boy in the school can do; one girl called Elizabeth, who is in Senior 3, initially thought learning to ride a bike would be easy and voiced this opinion quite loudly-she had a shock. However now, after a cut knee and endless practice, she can happily ride the bike and I have also seen her instructing the other girls-which is great.

The children also play netball and football after school frequently and I have played netball regularly, as it’s a good chance to spend time with the girls out of class and it also helps me from getting fatter on the Ugandan carb diet! On the 29th of October the only local government school called Kitenga, came to visit St Zoe for a football and netball match. The matches were held in the afternoon; it was amazing how many children appeared on bicycles and boda’s. The generator was brought out towards the netball pitch and music was blasted out whilst the matches were being played, much to the delight of the hundreds of dancing primary school children. The netball match started badly with the score at the end of the first half being 4-1, in the second half we played much better and the end score was 4-3 to Kitenga, so I was happy that the St Zoe girls had managed to pull back a couple of goals. The football match was much longer than the netball and we won 1-0, so that was good. The whole atmosphere of the afternoon was really friendly, with everyone enjoying themselves, spectating together and having a good old chat.

On the 17th of October there was visitation day, which is when the children get a visit from their parents or other family members and get their mid-term results. This was a really lovely day; the parents arrived bringing food and small gifts for their children and then sat in the shade and enjoyed each others company. Naomi and I were shocked to see so many people sat around the school on the grass, eating lunch. By mid-term the boarding students are starting to feel a bit home sick, so seeing their parents on visitation day perks them up again for the remaining half term. Depending on their mid-term results and what their parents have to say about them, it also encourages them to work harder for their end of term exams.

Other things that Naomi and I have taken part in since our arrival includes teaching the Sunday School Children the ‘Okey Kokey’, which was great fun. The teachers are not involved with Sunday School and it is solely run by some of the Secondary School students, -this kind of interaction between the Primary and Secondary section is encouraging to see and also develops level of responsibility and leadership skills within older students. These kinds of skills are very prominent within the secondary students, with different prefects in charge of a variety of areas such as Entertainment, Sports and Health and Sanitation. Each prefect has specific roles, which they take very seriously and carry them out dutifully. The entertainment minister is in charge of organization of events such as Talent shows, dances and has control of the DSTV remote. The DSTV not only provides the children with entertainment during the weekends, but is also used during weekday evenings to enable the children to watch the news. On the 30th of October Naomi and I attended our first Talent Show, which was highly entertaining. The Secondary and Primary school children took part in mimes, traditional dancing and comedy acts. Miming was a new experience for us both and is definitely a Ugandan thing. Our favorite act had to be the mime from Mutyaba  George William and Bonja Wasswa Peter; George William making his entrance to the mime riding a bicycle, wearing a flowery orange and white dress with silk ribbon, some particularly dazzling girls sunglasses and girls knee high lacy white socks as gloves up to is elbows! We were all in stitches. After the Talent show there was a dance, where students and teachers alike had a real good time.

This week is the last week before exams, so the students are studying hard in preparation. The following week is the Sports Gala where the new sports equipment will be put into good use and Naomi and I are organizing an end of term leaving dance to celebrate the end of exams.
St Zoe is a welcoming and well-organised school with a dedicated director who will continue to encourage development within the School. Naomi and I are thoroughly enjoying our time here and spend most of our time at school with the students. We are trying to be as helpful and productive as we can to the school during our time here and will try to keep you as updated as possible with school life.

Best Wishes from St Zoe, UGANDA 

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