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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Rebecca's end of Term at St Zoe's

So we are at the end of Term 1 and much has happened during the school term. Firstly I am going to start with how the art materials and other resources donated have been used in the school. This term I have been able to teach both Senior 1 and 3 Art which has been lovely. The children are often limited to a pencil and generally draw plants in pencil lesson after lesson, year after year. This term thanks to Bob, I have been able to do a variety of lessons using the new materials available. We have done figure drawing, concentrating on movement, proportion and colour, using the pastels; I also managed to recycle some of the empty cardboard water boxes from home and the children put them to good use, creating some 3D work. We then did mark making using the handwriting pens as well as observational hand drawings. Finally we looked at the school compound and concentrated on perspective and proportions. I have attached some photos of the students art work.

In Primary 7, the teacher asked me to do the topic Punctuation with the children, so having got the basics wrote down, I asked them to do a holiday piece and then we made this into a display using the pencil crayons. This was great for the kids, as not only has it given them a sense of pride in their work, it has also brightened up the classroom; display work is rarely done here in Uganda. Also, in P7 Master Paul has introduced a new group scheme; the students have been split into four groups with different house names-which is a brilliant idea and is encouraging healthy competition within the class.
I have also been teaching Pre-primary and Primary 1 this term, who are both brilliant classes, full of enthusiasm and who love to use the colouring pencils and wax crayons. We created cardboard butterflies which they coloured and are now displayed, as well as smiley faces and little chicks. Pre-primary now also have an Art book, which is great-they are so enthusiastic, although guaranteed they will always end up attacking each other with the pencils and wax crayons by the end of the lesson! They are an extremely active bunch, at the point of crayon attack I usually remove the crayons swiftly and then herd them out of the classroom for a good old sing along of ‘The Okey Kokey’-which the Secondary students find hilarious, as I am the only one singing at a rather high volume and am usually sufficiently red faced by the end!

Towards the end of this term I have started teaching Primary 3 reading using the books brought by Bob; I teach them on a Wednesday and Thursday, on the Wednesday we read through the book, copy down any interesting words and then on Thursday they do a structured excerise, interpreting and making their own version of the story with coloured pictures. They are also a lovely and enthusiastic class and give me an orange every lesson-which is a nice little perk to the lesson-not that I need it! Below you can see some examples of their work after we read the book ‘Handa’s Surprise’. So many thanks for the donation of the Art equipment and reading books, they are wonderful and the students are really enjoying them. The children at Kisimbiri are also enjoying the books, as I read the books first with them; they always give me good ideas as to how I should read the book and what to concentrate on.

So onto Mathematics, in Senior 2 mid-term exams, the boys came on top; Kukunda Happy was not too pleased with this and as a result has been asking me for numbers every night at prep. As a result of all the hard work she has put in, she performed very well in the end of term exam and came top of the class, beating even Michael (our top Senior 2 student in academic performance)-she was very happy and so was I, as Ugandans have the strong opinion that girls can’t do maths! She has also managed to create a nice little bit of competition, which is exactly what the student’s need; I know that competition spurred me on in school. In Senior 1 Kasoma Alphonse got the highest mark in Mathematics and has also managed to get the highest percentage in the whole class-which I am overjoyed about. Kasoma is 19 and a big lad, living in the village here at Kagoma. He did his Primary Leaving Exams in 2003 and obtained very good aggregates, however decided not to go to Secondary education due to lack of funds and village life (this often happens in Uganda). Kasoma makes a living from making bricks and he sells them to the school, this term he told the Director that instead of paying him for the bricks, he would like to put the money towards his school fees and start in Senior 1. He is a naturally intelligent boy, good natured and is working hard in class. There was also an interesting incident a few weeks back…at the time I was teaching Senior 2 when we heard screaming next door in Senior 1; my class ran out and I followed, I got out of the class just in time to see Kasoma chop a snake in half with a metal pole! The snake had been in the Senior 1 class, where Naomi was teaching and all the children had ran out screaming and jumped onto desks! After Kasoma had removed the snake he went straight back into the classroom and continued copying the notes, while Naomi and I spent  a good few minutes getting all the other students back into the classroom!
Kasoma is not great at art and scored 65%, afterwards he came to me and said ‘Madam, I need your help, I want to improve so please give me lots of exercises’. Because of Kasoma’s hard working nature and brilliant results, I have decided to give him a bursary for his next terms school fees. Both Senior 2 and 3 are eligible for a bursary for the next term if they score above 75% overall at the end of term; the Director decided not to apply this to Senior 1 until 2nd term as 1st term is an introductory term. Kasoma scored an 83% average and I therefore think he deserves to be encouraged to continue with his hard working ethic; at the same time encouraging the rest of the class to strive for their best.

On the 31st of March the Director organised a trip to Gombe Secondary School. Gombe SS is 3rd in Uganda for academic excellence and has a student population of 2300, all of which are boarding. Andrew organised the trip with the intention of showing our students and teachers a well established and successful school that they can gain inspiration and ideas from. 14 students and 3 teachers were taken as well as Naomi and I. The school was impressive, with an extremely well established and organised compound and a very full timetable involving Sundays, as well as early mornings and evenings. Enrolment to the school is highly regulated with only those students achieving aggregate 8 or higher in Primary 7 admitted. (The best mark that can be achieved is aggregate 4, 1 point in each of the 4 subjects and the lowest is aggregate 36). The academic excellence was displayed around the school and gave our most intelligent students something to really think about, as they realised that they were in fact very small fish in an extremely large pond! Both the teachers and students alike learnt many lessons from this trip and Andrew is hoping to organise another such trip next term to another high achieving school in Uganda. From the trip the Secondary section has decided to introduce a new system in which each lesson the teachers are monitored on attendance and punctuality. In Uganda, the punctuality and seriousness of teachers is a real problem. In prep on the evening when we arrived back from Gombe SS, the students that had gone on the visit were excitedly informing the other students, creating a real buzz, which was great to see. I really believe that in years to come, with all the highly dedicated people that are involved in the development of St Zoe, the school can really reach such levels as Gombe SS.

In terms of sport the Secondary children had a sports gala the other day. There were netball matches including S1 and S2 versus S3 and S4, which had a very interesting outcome, with S1 and S2 beating the older students 7-4. S2 has a new secret weapon in the form of Shifulah, 5ft10 (a lot taller than all the other girls) and a brilliant defender, using her height to her full advantage. The Senior 3 girls were not impressed, especially Florence (5ft) who was being marked by Shifulah and didn’t appreciate the height difference and voiced this opinion quite loudly! In the football we also have some new students who are challenging the school football team, including Tonny S4, who has exceptionally long arms and legs and makes a good defender as he can boot the ball to the opposite end of the field from a fair distance.

Since the trustees visit, water tanks have been installed, paving slabs laid and the construction of the Secondary blocks is continuing at a positive rate, with the roofing to the first block now up. Next term Andrew is hoping that the first block can be started to be utilised, as currently the S4 students are taught in the staff room, which has created over-crowding as well as disorganisation of staff documents.
As for the rainy season, it has barely been apparent and it has not rained in the past few weeks at all despite us being in the rainy season, the village, school and Kismibiri have been desperate for rain and this morning it has finally rained-so all are happy.

On Saturday we shall be leaving ready to go travelling; this time we are going to Kenya to do a bicycle safari in Hells Gate and we would also like to visit Mombasa and Nairobi.

Friday, 15 April 2011

HUGS Plans for 2011

We had our Annual General Meeting a couple of weeks ago and approved our accounts subject to audit. We publish these on the Charity Commission web site when they are approved.
Looking ahead and with nearly all the major work at Good Shepherd complete we have decided that our big priorities will be;

1. Continued development at St Zoe's where we can see at least 5 years of major site development. The Vocational school is a big part of this.
2. Emphasis on sport facilities at St Zoe and Good Shepherd.
3. Some revenue support at Good Shepherd.
4. Giving support to the Lira Babies home. (see earlier blog entries)
5. Giving some support to St Kizito's and assisting the new head teacher and renewed PTA.
6. Exploring a potential educational project in Rwanda which would be led by the Uganda Sisters who have built and run Good Shepherd school. More about this later.
7. Developing the volunteering opportunities at our schools. If an supporters have pre university youngsters who are interested do contact us.

From Cowhand to Surgeon

I met George in 2003 when he was about 14 and his job was to look after the cows on my friends family farm. Like many children in Africa he had missed out on any schooling at all. But then neither had his parents or any family members.

But in 2003 St. Zoe’s had been open for two years and the school was about a mile from the farm where he worked.

"Would it be possible for me to come to school too?"  was the question he asked one day. Yes, I know that Primary 1 children are 5 to 6 years old but I can handle that.

With that sort of courage he started in Primary 1 and moved ahead very rapidly, soon catching up and overtaking the little ones.

He had grown up with a love of animals. After all that was his job. But his vision and his love of animals had made his career ambition very clear. “I want to go to college and †rain to be a veterinary surgeon”

We met George again in February. He has finished secondary school and is doing a further education course as a preliminary to University to study to be a vet.

There is such a lesson for us in England. How is it that a 14 year old who misses all the early years of education can join in and hopefully will become a vet and have a really rewarding and satisfying career while we have such hopelessness and dependency in so many young people.

There are no bad kids. Just missed opportunities and suppressed ambitions.  

Friday, 1 April 2011

Another Town in Africa...Lira

We had a meeting of HUGS Trustees this week and discussed future plans now that most of the really expensive work at Good Shepherd school in Fort Portal has been completed. Several people told us that they would be keen to support the Lira Babies Home (see earlier Blog)

We decided to do this and will be helping them with their task of creating a warm and supportive home for what is now over 45 abandoned babies. The Sisters have been very successful in finding relatives or good supporters who will adopt these children when they are about 3 to 5 years old and therefore the children do not become institutionalised.

Although the Lord Resistance Army now appear to have moved to Congo, the lasting effects of the child abduction and the devastation of many families has left a scar on places like Gulu and Lira. The Lira Babies Home has been addressing these problems and several of our supporters have visited the home. They were really impressed and keen that we should give support.

If you would like to help and are already a regular donor then all you have to do is to call your bank and ask them to increase your monthly standing order.

If you would like to start then there is a form on our HUGS web site and it is explained there.

Your can read more about Lira at this link