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Uganda, 2 July 2018: No class too big with the right teaching skill set

By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye

© UNICEF Uganda/2018/Nakibuuka
Teacher Arot engages her pupils in an English lesson.

Longalom Primary School, Matany, Napak District, is located about 47 kms away from Moroto on a dusty and bumpy road.

The government aided school has an enrolment of 1,162 pupils with the largest numbers in the lower classes of primary one to primary three. With only one stream in primary one, the class sits about 200 pupils with only one teacher.

Despite the huge numbers in her class, the primary one teacher, Goretti Arot is not intimidated. This is because she has been equipped with the right teaching skills, thanks to the teacher trainings and mentoring sessions provided by Voluntary Services Overseas and supported by UNICEF with funding from Irish Aid.

On a Thursday morning, she embarks on delivering the first lesson of the day. The children are early, seated as some whisper to each other. Arot pins the instructional materials on the blackboard, distributes text books and begins the lesson. They are learning how to pronounce letter ‘R’ and how to read words that have the letter. The lessons are conducted in the local language. She uses songs, encourages participation and calls on volunteers to the front to provide more examples. They learn pronunciation of words like ‘erukude’ – meaning road and ‘erot’ meaning path and the emphasis is on letter ‘R,’ before they learn the sound of the letter. They all join in chorusing ‘rrrrrrrrr’. It is an interesting lesson for the little ones and they are all involved.

Arot recalls that before the UNICEF-supported trainings, she struggled a lot. Her teaching methods were not effective, she did most of the talking and she believes the children didn’t learn much. “I used to stand in front of the classroom and read from the text books, as the children gazed at me and at the end of the lessons, I would walk away.” Arot also notes that previous method of teaching was not only less effective but was also very exhausting and demotivating to her.

Today, she instructs and teaches differently and is confident that her pupils are learning faster and even better.
 

What do the UNICEF-supported trainings entail?

Arot reminisces that last year, she received training on Child Centred Methods (CCMs) of teaching for children in the lower classes (P.1 to P.3). “CCM means letting children be at the centre of learning,” she stresses.

Other topics covered were teaching numeracy (counting), literacy 1 (reading) and literacy 2 (writing). “We also learnt that for any child to learn how to read and write, they have to learn the sounds of the letters.” Cooperative learning was another component – where learners are grouped and encouraged to support each other during the lessons. Special needs education was another topic handled and this has enabled her address the needs of all children including the slow learners. “We were also taught how to teach using locally made instructional materials. These materials are supplemented with actual objects like bottle tops, sticks, actual foodstuffs, among others, which support learning and enable pupils understand concepts better.

“Focus of the trainings is on the lower primary sections because it is the foundation of our children. Beyond that stage (primary one to primary three), it is difficult to make any impact if children do not already know how to read and write. We want the children to learn early to read and write that is why we target the lower classes,” said Daniella Naputuka, the Head Teacher of the school.
 

After the training

“The first thing I did was to change the sitting arrangement which ensured that I accessed every learner in the class.” I am doing less talking and letting the children talk more and the class activities are child led with me as a guide. Activities are done through demonstrations, role play and answering questions,” Arot explains.

Arot is now more organized in the delivery of her lessons, she makes schemes of work at the beginning of the term and then does lesson plans before each class sessions. No more adhoc lessons.

Naputuka adds that the CCM teaching approach is very useful because it also supports regular assessment of pupils to gauge their understanding of the various topics taught and results noted in a continuous assessment monitoring form. “When I sit in the classrooms during Arot’s lessons, I realise that many children can identify letters, letter sounds, relate objects to numbers as well as count.”

To ensure she is on the right track, Arot is regularly supervised by the head teacher to assess her teaching and learner assessment and to give her constructive feedback on her lesson delivery for better results. Arot is also monitored regularly by members of the school management committee as part of their role to ensure teacher presence at school but also time on task in the classes.

Currently, 585 teachers – in lower primary, head teachers and deputy head teachers from 117 schools in the 7 districts of the Karamoja sub-region are benefiting from the UNICEF-supported teacher trainings.

 

 
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