29 June 2010

Spelling Contest

I've been organizing a spelling contest for 6 schools in my catchment area. I tried my best to prepare for any and every possible hitch… of course… we all know… that doesn’t work.

It wasn’t until a couple of days before the first spelling contest, at a small school about 20 minutes walk off the main road… that I realized the words are too difficult and too unrecognizable. When I was compiling the word list I was only thinking about giving the students a good challenge. But meeting a challenge requires more than just setting the bar out there and expecting people to jump right over it. And I'm not able to go to each of these schools everyday to coach them in spelling/phonics rules. Besides, I want the teachers to be doing that work.

The first spelling contest went surprisingly well . The P5s were excited and got the first two words correct: Fight and Cough. Then came a long string of incorrect spelling of words I don't think they had ever heard. Mix that with misunderstood pronunciation and it was a little bit of a messy contest. Though we all clapped loudly for the pupils that spelled correctly and I tried my best to steer the teachers to encourage the pupils who were incorrect. (There is a deeply rooted habit of humiliating and debasing people with incorrect behaviors/answers. )

P5 students competing at Central Academy P/S, Abayita Ababiri

Some of the common issues were: 1. Leaving out vowels because of mispronunciation, 2. Students not knowing the word and being very scard so just standing in silence until the teacher told them to sit down and 3. Mixing "L" and "R" sounds. Ugandan English mixes those two sounds, making it difficult to hear the correct letter. E.g. Malaria sounds like "Mahraria" when spoken, so many students spelled it that way.

It felt nice to encourage the students in any way, and I think they enjoyed the challenge. That was a good feeling; to see the students smiling and laughing in class. The P6s struggled, but tried. The P7s did very well , one student was able to spell "unanswerable", which I thought was an incredible accomplishment.

P6 Winners at Central Academy P/S

At the end of July there will be the Nkumba Catchment Area Final Spelling Contest. Good Luck Spellers!

In other news:

I had a skin infection from scratching a mosquito bite on my leg. It turned into cellulitis and i'm on antibiotics to fix it.

My neighbors thought it was a ________(too gross to fill that in) that had burrowed into my skin. They tried to lure it out with a sugar paste. So one night last week, I was sitting in the parlor room at the convent, intently staring at a spot on my leg with the sisters, waiting for some tiny monster to peek outta my leg to eat the sugar paste smeared on my skin. I laughed. (I was imagining the Dune sandworm to come barreling out like it was in search of melange.. Ha!)

The P7 girls here at St.Theresa are learning the World Cup songs with me on the guitar. If you haven't heard K'Naan and David Brisbal sing the lively and extremely catchy "Wave Your Flag", you're missing out on the excitement that has taken over this continent (and most other non-American Football oriented places.)
We're also learning, Shakira's "Waka Waka", The McCoy's "Hang on Sloopy", Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill", and some gospel and country songs. Their favorite is a song in French by Carla Bruni; They really like trying to speak French! (who doesn't) It's been a loud and entertaining way to practice cultural exchange. If you have any ideas for other songs to included on our playlist, feel free to let me know~

Pauline, Concepta, Valentino

18 June 2010

Walking to Primary Schools

Got to walk in the village, doesn't happen too often these days, usually stick to the schools closer to Entebbe Road... I forget that i love walking down the red, dusty roads. Hearing the sounds of a hot, Southern summer day.


I visited a primary school were students were reading young adult fiction. They were reading books that were probably at or above their reading level. I felt like i was in America and i was speechless, i didn't know what to say to the students or teachers.

Later, I was sad to reflect on why students reading surprised me so much; I have become comfortable or expectant of young people either not wanting to read or not being able to read. In the best cases I've seen, the older classes, P6 and P7, read large-print, essentially "picture book" books in their leisure time.

I felt like there was something special about these students and teachers. It's true, they are unique in this Ugandan school system (where students don’t read or question information, where they only have the chance to copy notes from a blackboard and respond to teachers' 10 over-designed questions in choral response.)

But they aren't inherently different. They just are allowed the opportunity to develop an interest in reading, they are allowed the opportunity of access to books, they are allowed the opportunity of a positive, encouraging environment.

Sometimes working here drives me nuts! Because what am I doing besides keeping the status quo?

16 June 2010

Day of the African Child

This morning i went to Entebbe Works Grounds to see the celebrations marking the 19th annual Day of the African Child. Many area primary schools went, including Nkumba Primary in their bright pink uniforms. It always makes me smile to see big groups of different primary schools. They look like a moving rainbow in their colorful uniforms.

2010 Day of the African Child theme:
Planning and Budgeting for the well being of the child: A Collective Responsibility for all."
Heres some information directly from the Ugandan brochure:

"60% of Ugandan children (5.7 million) live below the poverty line, making them very vulnerable to other violations of their rights. This highlights the challenge in planning though they are the majority of Uganda's population; they are largely not involved in decision-making processes. Their plight has to be prioritised by those who are responsible for planning and budgeting for their wellbeing."

"...primary school enrollment is at 90% although there are challenges around retention, with only 47% able to complete primary seven(although this is an improvement from 22% in 2003.) The drop out rate has remained high, affecting girls more. There is concern about the 16% (about 1.3 million children aged 6-12 years) of the children out of school. Most children out of school are likely to be orphans."

Feel free to look up more general information about today: