Jane Goodall Institute Journal Posts Connie and John 1: Education Program

Journal Excerpts – Education Program

7March06 The first group of Primary 5 students arrived 30 minutes early, making it a hectic day from the start. The kids ranged in age from ten to fourteen and seemed to share two traits; they were small in stature and they didn’t understand much English. My first impression is that they are quiet and passive when it comes to learning. I never saw a questioning look or any sign of curiosity, and seldom a smile. As a result the program lacks spontaneity and is very much one directional. Three hours is hardly enough time to ground them in conservation education.

9March06 We spent the morning organizing the educational supplies. Disney’s Animal Kingdom developed and supplied the materials but over estimated the scope of the program, JGI’s resources, the skill of the NFA teachers and the level of the P-5 students so many of the materials are neglected.

10March06 We took the motorbikes on a kind of treasure hunt. Actually we were trying to locate some of the schools and drop off information for the head teachers. Our map, obviously drawn by a dyslexic cartographer, was quite worthless, the distances inaccurate, few village names and no mention of the dirt roads and footpaths that led to the schools. Now we understand why we have dirt bikes, not road bikes.

14March06 One of the kids from Rutoto Primary School was terribly crippled from polio, so much so that he moved along on his hands like an ape. He stayed behind while the others went into the forest so I gave him some books to look at. He took the time to write me a note asking us to buy him a bicycle. I guess I understand his thought process – rich whites and an economy funded by foreign aid – but it was awkward.

16March06 This group was a lot more relaxed and ready to learn. I suspect the word got around on what to expect and how much fun it was. Robert reacted accordingly. He really seemed to enjoy himself, a feeling I remember from my teaching days when everything clicked.

20March06 Today we saw some of the inequities of education in Uganda. At Swazi PS many of the young kids are AIDS orphans and there are only seven teachers for 300 students. At the Tea Estate school the kids are neatly dressed, the newish buildings are painted and there is actually glass in the windows while Jerome’s classroom at Mashonga has holes in the tin roof, an even dirt floor and a chipped slate blackboard with a single piece of chalk. He has only 32 students but they sit 3 and 4 to a desk and have no books.

21March06 Robert “called in” sick today, seems his malaria is back, and I got to do some actual teaching for a change. My accent is so foreign that Lawrence had to translate into the local language, the vernacular. I am trying to speak more slowly, softer, and less harshly and Lawrence remarked on the change.

28March06 A big storm hit while the group from the Tea Estate PS was on the forest walk. They had taken ponchos but when they returned I learned that only eight are serviceable and they were all soaked, including the head teacher.

7April06 We visited Ndangaro Primary School for the follow-up visit and found the kids even more subdued in their own classroom than in the centre. I am dismayed by our failure to reach them. They still say they like the forest because it is a source of firewood even though they identify the cutting of trees as a threat to the environment.

12April06 While Connie finished our laundry I washed 20 seat cushion covers, their first cleaning in two years I am sure, 30 or so mismatched socks and 20 pairs of stinky gumboots. Robert and Lawrence sat and watched then took naps when I began to sweep out the classroom. So much for teaching by example.

13April06 We arrived early for our Tea Estate follow-up visit so I spent some time playing soccer with the boys while Connie refereed a game the girls made up, a cross between hopscotch and dodge ball. The kids at Tea Estate are lucky – a god school and dedicated teachers. In addition to attending the program himself, the head teacher purchased seedlings to start a grove of fruit and medicinal trees. This is the first real evidence of progress I have noticed.

19May06 Work on the Busingiro Centre continues at a hectic pace. While Connie joined Ben and Moses in painting the mural I continued painting the walls and the African design on the outside. The toxic paint fumes are getting to all of us along with the exhaustion of working from “cain’t see to cain’t see.”

6June06 We are helping to launch “Roots and Shoots,” Dr. Jane’s international conservation program, in Masindi and Bulisa districts. It is a school-based, self-directed conservation club focusing on wildlife, the environment and the community. Our job is to help the teachers get it up and running but we have discovered that some of the groups have already begun some projects.

19June06 Vincent and Amnon, our designated teachers, made their practice presentations to Stephanie, Tammy, from Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and several others. While obviously uncomfortable with the material and overly awed by the “students,” they did a pretty good job. The presentation needs to be streamlined and they need tons of practice but it shows promise.

19July06 Yesterday was the first day of the Busingiro Environmental Education Program, one that like December 7, 1941 “will live in infamy.” Amnon didn’t arrive until after 9:00 so Vincent and I had to get everything ready. I consider my role as that of mentor, not boss, and this is the first time they have seen me angry. I doubt if they are looking forward to an encore.

We have had the course materials for a month now and have had only one complete run through. They said they thought that was enough. I encouraged them to practice on their own but they felt it was unnecessary, they were ready to go. They were wrong. It was a disaster. We did a debrief and more instruction and practice after lunch and this morning went much better. It still needs a lot of work and I hope they can make the transition from forest guides to teachers. The program’s success is riding on their shoulders. Just to add to the pressure I told them they have only three hours with the students to make an impression that will last a lifetime.

25July06 Vincent had birding clients this morning so the classes would be taught by Amnon and me. I handled the pre-assessment and the classification lesson and Amnon did the rest. Not to brag but I did an outstanding job, language barrier and all and Amnon was nothing less than fantastic. Vincent returned for the afternoon session and they were brilliant. If they can keep up their enthusiasm and focus the program will be a great success. Robert and Lawrence could learn from them.

28July06 Amnon once again did well but Vincent’s classification lesson was worse than awful. Granted it is the most difficult lesson and Amnon hasn’t even attempted it. But he did so well on Tuesday and totally butchered it this morning. Once the kids left I taught it to them again. We tightened it up and clarified some fuzzy areas and, to his credit, Vincent carried it off well for the afternoon session with just a little coaching from the wings.

4August06 While Amnon and I taught the morning session, three South African brothers who were camping with their parents audited the class. Rupert, the eldest, is already an accomplished birder and he aced the pre-assessment form. Amnon, by the way, taught the dreaded classification lesson for the first time and added a few interesting things that we will incorporate. Unfortunately, this is the final day of the term and I hope they can maintain the momentum into the next term.

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