ELIZABETH ANN – UGANDA
My name is Elizabeth Ann and I’ve been working in a small village in the Masaka district, Uganda, for almost a year now.
BAJJABEGONZA MAIRA NURSERY AND PRIMARY SCHOOL is a fully registered project and has been in existence since 1998. It is located 18m from the city (Kampala) in Mayira village-Kinoni in Masaka district and has both a Nursery and Primary section. The children in this project are aged between 3-14yrs.The Nursery section has children aged 3-6yrs and the activities involved in this section are teaching these children how to; count, read, write, and other activities like playing games and sports, painting, music dance and drama while the primary section with children aged 7-14yrs has activities like teaching different subjects depending on the volunteers’ choice. Other interesting activities in this project are; participating in outreach programmes like sensitization on issues of HIV/AIDS, gardening for example preparation of nursery beds, tree planting and child care.
I’ve been teaching in a private (just means run by individuals, not receiving government funding) primary school called Bajja Bright Academy teaching English, Music and Art to the children in Nursery, P1 and P2 (ages 4-9 ish). I live with a host family with 5 lovely children between the ages of 2 and 11 and a host mother, who is also head mistress of the school (the host father visits every so often; he has 3 wives so I never see him very much!). I have my own room and a family toilet (which is a hole in the ground, but don’t worry about it, you get used to it very quickly!) The house is about 3 minutes walk from the school, so it doesn’t take long to get there in the morning.
MY WORKING DAY
I teach 5 days a week starting between 8.30 and 9.30am and ending between 3 and 4.30pm on different days. Firstly I was asked to decide which classes I wanted to teach and which subjects and then we made a time table fitting the different classes together. It was really flexible so you can pretty much decide how much you want to work, which age group and which subjects. I decided to teach the younger children and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
TEACHING IS REWARDING AND CHALLENGING
Controlling a class of children that don’t speak English very well could be hard. I really appreciated having a teacher in the class to give me back up if I needed something to be translated or if the children were being particularly naughty. From
my own experience and talking to other volunteers that teach, a good punishment is getting the children to sit up against the wall (it’s really tough on the thigh muscles) and they won’t want to do it. I tried the stand in the corner idea but it seemed to cause more trouble, as they would start dancing or showing off in front of the other children. It’s a good idea to have an idea about disciplining the children before you come, although I hadn’t really given it much thought when I came.
LIFE IN THE VILLAGE
I am SO glad I decided to live rurally as I feel have had a truly African experience. I have friends who lived in the capital Kampala and they also enjoyed it but it’s a totally different experience in that it’s quite westernised, internet everywhere, a nice cinema and a nice shopping mall in the city centre.
A FABULOUS AND CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE
Language and communication has been the biggest challenge for me particularly in the first couple of months; my host mother and the teachers do have some English but you can’t just chat away with them like you can with people back home, you need to put in a constant effort to communicate, but their English is enough to get by. English in Kampala is generally MUCH better than that of the people living in the village. Another thing is finding things to do in free time, as it can sometimes feel like there’s nothing to do, which is why I really recommend bringing a couple of books with you (it’s also possible to buy them in Kampala from Aristoc in a mall called garden city, it’s got lots of great books for about the same price as back home). There are always children around to play with/talk to so I’m never lonely (although sometimes it does feel like there’s no privacy!). And there are also clothes to wash by hand to keep you busy (people will help you and show you how). Overall I have enjoyed my time teaching in my village SO much and wouldn’t have swapped it for anything. The challenges make the experience feel all the more worthwhile!