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Field Report – Kampala, Uganda – Part 4 – Curriculum and the Impact of OEF

The schools are required to teach a government-prescribed curriculum – which is the basis for student advancement exams. I am not qualified to evaluate curricula, but the teachers’ guides I looked at seemed thorough and comprehensive. I participated in Primary 6 during math, art, science (the topic was climate), hygiene, and English. The teachers allowed me to help by asking questions of the class after they had covered material, sharing my own thoughts on the hygiene topic, teaching some songs, and they asked me to lead the session on hygiene.

The style of instruction at Namasuba was highly structured.

  1. The teacher transcribes the lesson from her teacher’s guide onto the blackboard.
  2. The teacher reads from the board and the students repeat back verbatim.
  3. Questions from the teachers’ guide are read aloud – and students are given the opportunity to answer (by raising hands).
  4. The questions are transcribed onto the blackboard.
  5. The students transcribe everything from the blackboard, verbatim, into their notebooks.

Needless to say, it takes a lot of time to do all the transcribing and copying. There is no alternative because the kids do not have books for the government curriculum. I was very impressed by the neat printing and perfect illustrating the children did in their notebooks.

An observation my group shared was that the children seemed to struggle with open-ended questions. Most seemed very good at memorizing the scripted material, though.

Noise level from chatter is a constant challenge for the teachers, at least in the grade I saw. The human body density in the classroom makes control difficult. Some students are assigned as “provosts” to discipline kids that the teacher can’t reach.

The curricular materials provided by Opportunity Education Foundation are intended to supplement the government curriculum. They include books, posters, instructional aids and DVD videos. I didn’t personally get a chance to see these in use. The school of 1,100 kids had only one television (a second had been stolen) and only one classroom with electricity. However, the headmaster spoke with great enthusiasm about the value of the materials. He said that since the videos were introduced, enrollment in the school had nearly doubled. This is clearly a blessing (the kids previously were not going to school) and a curse (severe overcrowding).

People on our trip who spent days at more upscale (by Uganda standards) schools had good things to say about the value and use of Opportunity Education materials. They also seemed to have quite a high opinion of how advanced many of the kids in those schools are. At least one school had a dedicated classroom for the videos. Namasuba was not representative of all schools our group visited. It was clearly the poorest.

Tomorrow – a more poignant topic.

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