It is our desire to use our talents and resources to assist the teachers at primary schools in eastern Uganda in providing their students the best education possible.
We also plan to use our association to provide a connection between primary schools in Uganda and in our community in order to enrich the educational experiences of students at both.
New letters access!!
All of the letters from the students at Aturukuku and Patewo Primary Schools can now be viewed... check them out in the box below! When you click on the image, the album will open in a new window. From there, you can scroll through the collection and read what the African students wrote to their US counterparts.
During our first trip to Uganda in 2006, we visited Aturukuku Primary School in the town of Tororo in the far eastern part of the country. The school had 13 teachers and about 350 students in grades P1 through P7.
We learned that all of the teachers walked to and from work, requiring a good deal of their time and energy. The school had no running water and no electricity. There was no library at the school and no means for the teachers to make copies of materials for their own use or for the students. These issues were distractions from the primary job of the teachers ~ lesson preparation and leading the students in their studies.
How could we not try and find some way to help, to share something of what we had with these children who called us Muzungu (white man) and welcomed us under that marvelous tree in front of the school...
...with singing and dancing. And a poem...
So we did what we could, with much help from church families, friends, coworkers and local schools. It seemed to be so little, but it meant much to the school in Tororo. Reports of the projects at Aturukuku are in posts in this blog.
Then, during our visit in 2008, we met with the teachers at Patewo Primary School in the rural area west of Tororo Town. There are 7 teachers for an enrollment in grades P1 through P7 of almost 700 students! Our plan is to meet with the school staff in 2010 about the barriers they face in providing the kind of education they would like the students to have and how we might be able to remove at least some of them.
2 Corinthians 8:10-12
Ujumbe. One Word, meaning Mission. Our mission in Uganda is multi-faceted, including work with three churches, two primary schools and a missionary team in Mbale. We touched bases with most of these during our recent visit to eastern Uganda, but I think the One Word Ujumbe is illustrated quite well in our association with Patewo Primary School.
Patewo is located in Paya, a rural area several miles west of Tororo, our "home base" so to speak. Our mission this year was to acquire textbooks for four subjects and all seven grades at the school and to get a bicycle for each of the teachers.
While the trip in general and the arrangements for these items in particular, were not without their moments of drama, in the end the books and bikes were delivered and are now being used for the benefit of the students and teachers as they strive to improve academic performance.
The students study English, math, science and social science. There are 10 teachers for 719 students in grades P.1 through P.7 with enrollment weighted towards the lower grades. There are only four classrooms and a small office/storage room combination in the two tin-roofed, cement buildings. In addition to these facilities, the Anglican church across the road provides space for one class and the other two meet under "temporary" roofs supported by rough poles erected at one end of each of the buildings.
One of the Two "Temporary" Classrooms
P.4 Class Meeting in the Still-Under-Construction Church
We discussed the possibility of helping the school during our 2010 visit. The Patewo staff put together a list of books and other teaching materials that they could use. We learned that students who had access to appropriate textbooks scored better on the Primary Leaving Exams that seventh graders must pass in order to go on to secondary school. So, we decided to focus on acquiring textbooks – about one book for every three students, this considered to be representative of a well-equipped school.
On Tuesday morning, we drove up to Patewo to be greeted by about 500 people from the school and the neighboring community. I am familiar with the warm greeting offered by our hosts, but never cease to be humbled by the enthusiasm and graciousness. And this day was no different, with singing and dancing and speeches.
Just a Part of the Large Group that Came to Greet Us
Speeches are a necessary part of any ceremony in Uganda, but the ones delivered today were special. The teachers, parents and students all offered promises to use the books to improve academically. We had stressed that this project was a partnership and that getting the books, while it might seem like a big thing, was the easy part. Using them in a serious effort to do better academically was the really important part. And the hard part. We were overwhelmed by the seriousness with which the promises to do their parts were made.
The books were purchased from MK Publishers in Kampala and delivered to the school to be unloaded by the students, counted and put onto the specially made bookcase in the small storage room.
Students Unloading the Books
Alex (left; Headmaster) and Samuel with Books on the New Bookshelf
After all of this, the pickup truck we had hired made it up with the 11 bicycles. There was one for each teacher plus one for a "staff member," a lady from the community who every day cooked porridge over an open fire for the students' lunch. She did not expect to be getting a bike and was so grateful that it brought tears to my eyes.
Bikes for the Teachers
We came back to Patewo on Wednesday as there were some issues with the book order - we needed a few more of a couple of the books and had received far too many teachers' guides. During the visit, we checked in on the classes to find the books already in use.
Books in Use
We called our project a mission, but it is the teachers, parents and students of Patewo Primary School who have put so much into the school and their children who truly embody the spirit of Ujumbe. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your mission.
Bicycles were offered up as a way to improve the classroom experience in Primary Schools during our first visit in 2006. As we talked with the leaders at Aturukuku Primary School in Tororo Town in eastern Uganda, we learned that teacher absenteeism was one of the contributing factors to less than desireable classroom experiences for the students. We also learned that this stemmed from the fact that all of the teachers had to walk to and from school every day and they did not all live that close to the grounds. It was suggested that bicycles could make a difference. The result was the donation of bicycles to Aturukuku for teachers' use as reported in the post Bicycles for Aturukuku.
We plan to expand the program to provide bicycles for the teachers at Patewo Primary School as well as for the new teachers at Aturukuku. Bicycles cost around $60 each and we estimate we will need about 20 - 25 bikes.
Interested in helping? Send an inquiry to the email address in the "Contact" section in the sidebar.
In addition to seeming fairly obvious to us, a report from Clemson University documented the significance of students having access to textbooks. The study attempted to relate performance on the important Primary Leaving Exams to conditions at the schools. What was found was that access to appropriate textbooks was the most significant factor in students acheiving good scores.
So, we have committed to providing textbooks to the students at Aturukuku and Patewo Primary Schools. Each school teaches four subjects in seven grades. There are a total of about 1,000 students. Our plan is to get enough textbooks so that there is one book for every 3 students.
Interested in helping? Send an inquiry to the email address in the "Contact" section in the sidebar.
We are to BE Christians. No doubt. But being is not, cannot be, separate from DOING. This is pretty clear when you consider Matthew 28:19-20, John 21:17, James 2:20. Good nuts and bolts things, perfect for an engineer.
As for the doing, plans are good. Especially - only - if they are well founded; Proverbs 16:3. And if not, we labor in vain; Psalm 127:1.
Since our visit in January of 2010, we have worked on plans to address needs of the churches and schools in eastern Uganda that we desire to serve. And to address issues that make doing this difficult.
So, the OneWord for 2011, Ujumbe, will be a reminder. It is time to carry out the plan. To go. To serve. To remind us that we are On A Mission.
The funds were raised and a local elementary school along with many friends, neighbors and co-workers brought in the books which were packed in a COLD garage in Wisconsin. All this in time to get them to Joplin for loading into the container.
The container finally arrived in Uganda in May and the books completed their journey to Tororo in July. Now, the students and teachers are enjoying access to a selection of reading and reference materials - something every school, everywhere should have.
In January of 2010, we will have the chance to talk to the teachers face-to-face about their experience with the books and about how we might be able to do to improve the library with additional books and other reference materials relevant to the needs of the school.
We now have more books and hope to find the means to get them shipped as soon as possible. If you are interested in helping with this effort, drop us an email. The address is in the "Contact" box on the right side of this page.
It seems as if everyone enjoyed the exchange and we have been asked to repeat the program for our 2010 visit.
Featured Letter from an Aturukuku Student
Letter 4 of 57
Click on image for a larger view
Also, there was a small excess in the funds raised for purchase of the bikes - small, but enough to have a water line run to a point near the building.
Teachers and the new bicycles at Aturukuku