Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Africa - Winding Down

Happy 4th! Today I went searching for American food to celebrate. I had to settle for tomato soup and fries. They did play some interesting music starting with: "This World is Not My Home, I'm Just Passing Through" (perhaps preparing me for heading home to Texas:). This was followed by the country song: "Nobody Knows But Me."

Yesterday's headline in the Kampala newspaper was interesting:
43 Killed in City Accidents Last Month
(The breakdown of deaths is what is interesting)
"43 people died in 39 accidents, the police said yesterday. Of these, 22 were pedestrians, 7 were passengers, 8 were motorcyclists, 3 were pedal cyclists, and another three were drivers." Those who have been to Uganda will be able to understand this, as they have seen the masses of people that walk in the roadways, as well as beside it. I wouldn't want to know how many of the 22 were children.

We have had buckets of rain pouring down for two days. As you can imagine, the dirt roads and paths now are even worse with their ruts, pot-holes, water puddles.
Electricity has also become a big problem. It is off as much as it is on. There doesn't seem to be a pattern this year.

Backtracking: I forgot to mention that when I met with the staff of Namirembe, a huge discussion with them was the fact that the students' scores have risen each year in reading and writing since the library was provided and they have had access to reading materials and various types of writing. They were encouraging reading by holding monthly assemblies and giving out pencils, etc., which they wrap as rewards for reading and writing summaries. Several of the teachers are having them keep yearly books they have created with summaries and pictures of all the books they have read.

Yesterday, I was reading to a large class of first-graders at Namatala. I did a drop-in visit and found Sarah, the librarian, reading "The Ugly Duckling" to the students. They asked that I read a book too, so I read the Seuss book, "Green Eggs and Ham." As I was reading several district education officials arrived to observe. Sarah had handed each student a book as he/she walked into the library. Later, the headmistress, Judith, was pleased to inform me that the officals were very impressed when she told them the first graders had been reading the books they were holding, before I began my story. I had to laugh, as I know the students in first really only read a few words. They didn't begin speaking English until last year - but it looked impressive. :)

I spent 30 minutes in a first-grade class to observe their teaching methods. There were 150 students in the class. The method: Write sounds or a concept on the board and have all 150 yell it back to you in repetition. Then walk around the room and have different sections yell it - before returning to mass yelling once again. Picture this when you have classrooms with open doors and windows and a student body of over 3,000 ... just a little loud!. I'm not sure how else you would do it without books, however, but it does seems it would take forever to cover much material. Of course, you must carry a short cane stick, just in case you should need to get someone's attention. Actually, I saw Sarah's lesson plans for the classes she teaches when she is not in the library. They are definitely as detailed as ours in America, if not more so, stating goals, objectives, methods, details, etc, for each day.

This morning when I was walking Mercy to school, there was an ostrich in the road walking straight toward us. I am used to cows, goats, and chickens - but an ostrich?! I have promised Mercy I will go to school with her on Friday to take presents to all 200 students, as well as sing songs and play my accordion. Where is my team when I need them? :)

Wilber and I visited schools in which we are considering libraries for next summer. Mbale Secondary School backs up to Namatala and is where almost all the students go after completing primary. This makes it a perfect candidate, as we want the students to have reading materials through their school years. It has a student population of 3,200. I visited with the librarian. She pointed out how all the students were reading. The library was quite full of students, but they were all doing subject matter, such as math - not reading books. I tried to explain to her the concept of a library full of books, but I seriously don't think she understood the concept of our type of a library at all.

We visited North Road Primary School, which has 3,600 students! Oh my! I was very impressed with the headmaster. He has a wonderful sense of humor and is well spoken. He was originally the principal of Namatala Primary, and is responsible for various arrangements on the grounds, out of rock, promoting educational concepts.

Tomorrow, Wilber and I will go to visit his mother in their village. That should be interesting. This evening is church, which is always wonderful.

I will go with Wilber to Kampala to visit their two other children Sunday morning. I will spend that night with Jane, the principal of Namirembe Primary, and her husband. On Monday, I have an appointment with the Permanent Secretary of Education, the highest ranking education official in Uganda at 11:30. I hope later to meet with Dr. Kay Perry, who is involved with the US Embassy's education programs. I also plan to visit to customs to discuss future shipments.

After all of that is finished, I will fly out of Entebbe late in the evening to catch a flight out of Nairobi back to the States. Please keep me in your prayers on Monday.

I will send a closure letter once I return home at the end of next week. It is hard for me to think of leaving. It seems I just arrived and I will miss my friends here, but it will be good to be with home once again.

Love and best wishes,

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