Stephanie Higgins: 3rd Report from Uganda

stephanie-higgins-ruth-mother-care

I can’t believe how much time has flown since my last report! It is now the second term of teaching at Ruth Mother Care school in Nansana, Kampala. This term we got right back into the swing of school life after the long Christmas break now that we are more used to the school day and the style of teaching there. For the first week or two of the new term, there were less children than usual because the children aren’t allowed to return to school until they have paid for their exercise books. As Ruth Mother Care is a partly charitable organisation and the fees are reduced for the most vulnerable children, many of the families are on low income so struggle to obtain this money, but after this time the school was full again.

I am much more used to thinking on the spot when teaching now, as we don’t get much time to plan lessons. The school has a timetable but the head teacher Ruth makes our time very flexible, so my fellow gappers and I look at the timetable for the day and decide which class and lesson we would like to teach. Lois is very good at teaching maths and Kate and I prefer teaching literacy and English. Often, after assigning ourselves for the day, we are given a page in the textbook for that subject by the teacher just before we start teaching. This might sound scary and challenging but I am used to it now and have got much better at thinking on the spot! I have enjoyed teaching all sorts of topics this term such as grouping in maths, using ‘a’ and ‘an’ in English, comprehension and health and hygiene.

My favourite topic to teach is literacy because it allows me to be more creative with my lessons. For example, I have been teaching the ‘school’ literacy topic to P1 and P2. As part of this, I have been teaching them the roles of different people in school and the spelling of these jobs, the school motto, the school logo, the school anthem and objects in the classroom etc. Another lesson I love teaching in literary was the parts of the body because I taught the children the song ‘Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes’ and got them to draw and label the body themselves.

We have discovered that wherever you go across the world, the best way to get children interested in the lesson is to get them to come up and write on the board. It worked that way in my primary school and it works a treat here too. Whenever I mention writing on the board, I am met by a chorus of ‘me teacher, me teacher’ even before I have asked the question or given any kind of instructions. Stickers have the same effect. Their favourite stickers are a fairy tale sticker set and some stickers my mum made for me saying ‘Teacher Stephanie says well done.’

In our catch up class in Nabulagala, we have been consolidating the children’s understanding of the alphabet, by emphasising practice on handwriting and the difference between ‘small’ and ‘big’ letters. Each Monday we start the class by reading one of the phonics books I brought with me to the children. They love the simple stories and picture in them, whilst at the same time learning focus phonics from the words for example the focus phonic in the book ‘Singing Dad’ is the phonic ‘ng’. The biggest challenge of the class I find is working on the children’s writing as many of them can sound out letters when pointed to but need a lot more work to form the letters themselves, which is hard when we have limited time with them. However, we have been running an extra class whilst the holidays are on at Ruth Mother Care, which has helped with that. It is very rewarding to see even small progressions in each child’s abilities, for example this morning one of the girls I have been working with one to one sounded out letters for the first time on her own instead of repeating them after me.

I have been having a wonderful time outside of Smile work. One highlight was our trip to Murchison National Falls Park to go on safari, which was a birthday present for me. Us teachers became tourists for a few days! We were lucky enough to be able to spot giraffes, elephants, buffalo, antelope and white hippos on the game drive. The campsite we stayed in had many warthogs wandering about and we even heard a hippo outside our tent at night, which was scary but exciting! My favourite part was the boat safari up the White Nile where we were able to see more wildlife as well as the stunning Murchison Falls, the most powerful waterfall in the world. I also had a lovely time on our second trip to Rwanda renew our visas for the next three months, where we stayed in a town called Gisenye Beach right opposite the beautiful Lake Kivu.

On April 23rd, I celebrated my nineteenth birthday here! I know that spending a birthday across the opposite side of the world from family and friends from home is one of the things which people worry about when deciding whether to take a gap year. I want to assure those in the process of making this decision that I had a brilliant and memorable Ugandan birthday. I spent the morning swimming with my fellow gappers and the two Smile volunteers we work with every day, which was so good as it was an open air pool. Then at church, in the afternoon I experienced the traditional Ugandan birthday ‘soaking’, where all my friends there soaked me with buckets of water after the service. I was drenched but it was so much fun and a birthday experience I will never forget. In the evening, I went out for a lovely meal, where I enjoyed pizza and being sung to by all the waitresses and waiters. Also, it was so nice to be able to make my family a part of my birthday by Skyping them. It’s things like Skype that really make the difference in helping me not to feel too homesick.

I am determined to make the most of every day of my remaining time in Kampala and am looking forward to everything the next weeks bring.  Thank you so much again to Hazel’s Footprints for making this possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *