Posted by: Stephen Palmer | June 24, 2008

Daily Schedules, Highlights, & Interesting Cultural Notes

Contributed by Suzie Ludlow

Over a month has passed since we set foot on African’s soil and already I have discovered and learned so much. I am excited about what adventures the next two months will hold!

BWEYOGERERE SCHOOLS

Teaching A Thomas Jefferson Education to two of our first level classes at Bwyeogerere has been quite the experience. Twice a week, Laura and I board the taxi-van (which barely seats 12 people but will more often than not stuff 15) to make the twenty to fifty minute commute (depending on how many stops we make) to the school.

We begin teaching teachers at the Primary School (elementary) around 12:20 (I say “around” because rarely do people show up on time because they run on African time here). I love the teachers in this class, often they are quite amusing. Yesterday, after hearing no one had done their reading (note, we finally were able bring them copies of the assigned chapter), we decided to give them a pop quiz. Wow you should have seen the surprise and slight shock in their eyes! It obviously wasn’t for a grade but hopefully gave them a little encouragement for next time.

This particular class is having a hard time grasping the principles we have to share. It is always so wonderful when you notice that one or two is beginning to understand. For example, I asked the question “Who is your number one student?” Responses varied from the slowest student, to the troublemaker, or the brightest student.

Then we read the 7th principle in the 7 Keys to Great Teaching, which is “You, not them.”

I asked the question again–same response all around..except from Sherifa who paused and softly said “It is I. I am my number one student.” She shared her conclusion with the rest of her fellow teachers that it is her responsibility to continually pursue her own education, thereby being an example and helping to inspire her students to continue learning. The true highlight of the class!

At 1:50 p.m. we conclude and are invited to eat lunch with them (by the way, they are giving up lunch time to take our class). I smile simply recalling how they heap great portions of matoke and g-nut sauce on our plate (Laura and I share, not even able to finish a serving for one!) and how they share lugandan phrases with us and laugh when they hear us say them. Oh by the way, I fit in here quite well, for they don’t use silverware! Yes!

We study until our next class with the secondary school (high school) teachers begins at 4:40 p.m. This class is a breath of fresh air. We teach the same information and all of them (numbers range to each class, but around 6 teachers attend at a time) seem to grasp the principles and even proceed to teach and explain them to each other when one doesn’t fully understand.

There is a sweet feeling in that class and lots of power. Instead of asking Laura and I specifically, as the primary class often does–“How do we solve this problem (they will state a specific problem such as too many children in the classrooms, too short of class periods, not enough teacher salary, etc.)?” they address a problem and ask each other “How do WE solve this problem?” A VERY different question.

CRANES

Our third level class, studying Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour, is going well. I decided that this book is A Thomas Jefferson Education in story form. We as a class have made hundreds of connections between the two. Sulah, Timothy, and Wahab are pulling out principles, making connections, avidly discussing, and applying lessons learned in their own lives.

The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People is Sulah’s bible, he takes it with him every where and refers to it in basically everything. They are ready and wanting to take their education to the next level. Timothy (the one spoken of previously who began this school), who begins his day at 4:30 am, before everyone else and finishes his day after everyone else and yet finishes the book way before schedule and everyone else. He is so passionate about becoming a politician so that he can change the educational system here in Uganda. He is the backbone of the school. If he ever shows anything but an upbeat attitude, it will affect everyone.

Timothy has recently been battling with the school district because the school is not up to code by the district’s standards. For example they have too many children in a certain space of housing. But here is the thing, if they close down Cranes, then half of the students will have no housing at all for they are orphans. Inspiring people who continue on although the odds are stacked against them.

COMMUNITY CLASS

This third level class, consisting of members of the community, is discussing Rich Dad, Poor Dad and we have great turnouts (sadly we have the same problem of lack of books for this class) and discussions. They also are grasping the principles and implementing them in their life. As most Ugandans, they are very soft-spoken, thereby hard to read at first, but after our first class discussion on their relationship with money and abundance verses scarcity mindsets, I noticed private victories taking place in them. Little “ah, ha’s,” especially seen in the enthusiasm of Tina, who actually will be leading the class discussion this Friday.

CULTURAL NOTE

What time does an African wedding reception begin when the invitation says 3pm? Any guesses? 10 minutes late? (no we are the only ones there) 1 hour late?! (no the djs just began setting up) 2 hours late!? (the guests finally began trickling in) 3 hours late!?! (the parents of the bride and groom arrive) 4 HOURS LATE!?! (the wedding party walked in) Answer: 4 1/2 HOURS!!!

Conclusion: never attend an African function on time or even slightly late. Thankfully Laura and I had each other. It was worth the experience though, especially when we the “muzungus” were introduced to a crowd of 300 people alongside a distinguished member of Parliment! Madina, from Bweyogerere, had invited us to the wedding, basically we found out later, so that she wouldn’t have to wait in the food line at the end of the programs because she had mzungus with her!

The reception was very similar to one we would have in America: bride in a white formal dress (but at the actual ceremony, which we had not been invited to, the bride had worn traditional Muslim African attire), bride’s maids, wedding cake (one cake was distribuited by the bride’s maids and groom’s men in small bite size pieces to the ENTIRE CROWD- amazing! like the loaves and fishes!

Hope everyone is doing fantastically well and eating apples for me-they don’t have much here. Africa says hi.

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