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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Laura Bledsoe, one of our alumni currently serving in Uganda, taught David Wambogo, a Ugandan government official in the Mukono District. He recently sent her his annotation of and thoughts on A Renaissance of Kings by Dr. Andrew Groft, which is tangible evidence that our volunteers are making a real difference in this great country.

David writes,

Kings originally were men and women who would give and protect life. In other words they were custodians of life and cardinal aim was to protect life and any other person is also a king in his own jurisdiction. For example a man or woman is a king in his own family and the children are the princes and princesses .

However, it should be noted that today the kings who are leaders are the ones who are responsible for taking away lives through different ways like killings, bad policies socially, economically and political policies used to destroy human kind.

Remember Jesus was a king among kings which kings are we people whom he had come to serve and he said that he had not only come to give life but also to give it abundantly or in its fullest.

Therefore Jesus Christ as a king was an exemplary leader an icon and a true king compared to the false kings of today who can not rescue their people from things like hunger, poverty, epidemics, bad world devices like homosexuality , lesbianism etc.

THE WAR AGAINST KINGS:

This war is or does not involve flesh and blood but it is rather directed towards fighting of powers of darkness. These powers of darkness which we have today are actually the corrupt leaders, who practice things like sectarianism, tribalism, using wage as weapon of powers, embezzlement of state funds, etc.

TECHNIQUES ON WAR:

The war techniques we are employing today in the fight against powers of darkness are rather backward and have not identified the real enemy therefore in most times we have used all types of ammunitions which are always off the target. In most cases we have gone for blood and flesh which has led to loss of lives, destruction of property, rape, and many others.

Strategies used in the fight against powers of darkness some times have yielded a few solutions to solving some African problems for example the N.R.M revolution in Uganda up to 1986 which thought was a fundamental change but however it should be noted that the real enemy has not been addressed or tackled and this has more less led to loss of life and property and things like corruption and stealing of public funds are at their best or highest. Therefore it is very important to change strategy and identify the real enemy rather than having imaginary enemies.

It should also be noted that in this fight people seem to have lost confidence fighting the powers of darkness as they expected a lot of changes which have not come forth with especially the youth.

However, it should be noted that one hero will appear and be ready to lead this fight who will consequently change a few hundreds of people who will later change a thousands and the tenth of thousands to millions which will lead to a social, political and economic change globally.

THE REAL ENEMY:

The real enemy in this context is the mind, heart and soul of people. We should be able to change the minds, strengths and hearts of our people to have a different way of thinking. In this way we shall easily triumph over our enemy who is the powers of darkness in form of corruption, nepotism, and tribalism plus terrorism which is appearing inform of Islam phobia. Therefore in this case we can see that it is not through flesh and blood that we can win this war but by rehabilitating the heart and mind. Remember the Catholics had tried by using the heart to strengthen their religion but they ended by destroying the mind and in the same way the Greeks had tried to use only the mind without accompanying it with the heart and they also failed. Therefore we should use both the heart and mind.

WAY FORWARD:

How do we rehabilitate the mind and heart? First of all the type of education given to our people should change. People should stop having education which only prepares them to get only jobs but they should prepare themselves with the kind of education which is relevant for society transformation, which will help them build a sense of patriotism and brotherhood with the exception of things like tribalism, corruption, Islam phobia and many others.

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Posted by: Errow | June 20, 2008

We need more books!

Contributed by Erin Reynolds

We have started teaching a number of new classes of teachers, training them in Thomas Jefferson Education. They are so excited! It’s amazing to see these people as the light turns on and they realize that they have a unique role to fulfill and they have immense power as teachers.

The TJEd classes are empowering because 1) the teachers realize that while they may not be in whatever their chosen field would be, they can actually have huge impact in that field THROUGH teaching, and 2) they realize that they have a unique mission, and that they can do so much if they set their mind to it. So many here have lost hope; they feel that Uganda’s problems are so big, that life is just a process of swimming through and struggling against an impossible, inexplicable tempest. Once they start to realize that while there are HUGE problems here, but that ordinary people can have impact, then they really catch on fire. So that’s what we get to see every day.

We recently met a young man, Jimmy, who told us he was a manager and that he wanted to take us to his home village which was not far because he wanted some white people to visit and honor his people. We obliged, and as he lived quite close by he soon introduced us to a lot of pigs (which is what he is the “manager” of,) and then to his boss’s wife and family who own a school. He kept saying (literally at least twenty times), “It is SUCH an honor that you have come to visit me! Thank you SO much! It is SUCH an honor.”

Many of the people here feel that the Muzungus (white people) are such a blessing to their society because they come and serve, but at the same time, they are under the impression that all Muzungus have TONS of money. The kids often come up to us and say, “I want a Million dollars! Give me a million dollars!” My response is that “I want a million dollars too!” So although Jimmy was SO grateful to receive us at his home village, he still felt the need to ask us for 1000 shillings when we left (about 45 cents). We didn’t give it to him, but we promised to go back to the school he showed us and tell them about LEU!

Well I could go on, but I want you all to know how blessed you are to live in a country where education is so available, where books are so available, where great music and literature and art are so available. The quality of life here is different qualitatively and quantitatively both physically and mentally, emotionally, spiritually…we are so blessed to have what we do.

Lastly, in honor of Jimmy 😉 , we are in need of more TJ Ed books! We have over 100 students right now, and less than 30 books to go around. I know all of you have already been SO Generous, but if you know anyone else who might be to donate even five dollars that will help us get one more book here. We’re trying to raise enough to cover the cost of books–someone has already offered to donate the shipping costs. If you can help, please let me know. Timothy, one of the teachers, has read his copy seven times and I know that he’s not the exception. These books are so valuable here.

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Posted by: Errow | June 20, 2008

Les Miserables: Giving vs. Teaching

Contributed by Erin Reynolds

Suzie had a mentor meeting with Timothy yesterday, and he mentioned that the government was trying to shut his school down because there aren’t enough places for students to sleep so they are overcrowded, and he has so many orphans and so few students actually paying student fees that he can’t pay his teachers well, so teachers like Sula can’t afford to feed their families.

Sula has started a rice-growing business on the side–which he does after teaching for 10-16 hours a day, with classes of 50-100 students each hour. His teachers are paid 100,000 shillings a month, about 2 dollars per day.

Then, as Suzie and Timothy were talking, someone came in and said that there was no food for dinner that night. Timothy gave them enough money to buy flour so the kids could at least have something in their stomachs before bed.

All of that on his plate–worrying about all of the little details and implications of running his school–and Timothy still is the first to finish the book (Education of a Wandering Man). Seeing things like this is incomprehensible to me; last night I was really struggling with what I could possibly do to help in this or any other of the thousands of other situations that I know exist and I felt like it simply was too much.

The problems are too big. Kids starve here or die of poor sanitation or illness that could easily be avoided with small but important changes. People like Timothy are swimming against an impossible tide that is only growing stronger. When I see things like this the urge to just give everything material I have is literally almost overwhelming.

I could easily go back home and send every dollar I ever make back here to Africa, I could fundraise like crazy and I could pour more and more money into Africa and it would change a few things; a few schools would be better, a few more children would be off the road and a couple teachers could actually go to bed at night not worrying about whether the 700 non-paying kids at their school will even be there tomorrow or be once again on the street.

But it struck me that the fundamental problems would still exist; the reason that Sula can’t support his family, that Timothy can’t feed those orphans, that the family next door’s annual income is one pig and whatever piglets happen to survive–those reasons exist because freedom matters.

Liberty matters. Knowledge matters. And however else we try to compensate for those things, it will never be enough. There are no substitutes for public virtue; there is no replacement for individual liberty.

There is an abundance here of food–and yet people starve. There is plenty of water–and yet people walk for miles each day to fetch a couple jerry cans worth, only to do the same thing the next day. The resources are here, almost every material thing that a country needs to be free and prosperous is here (at least the raw sources are), and yet the knowledge, the leadership, the initiative and the courage are lacking.

It is actually painful once you realize that all you can do is what you’ve been doing (and of course try to improve and perservere), while knowing that “Les Miserables” will continue to face the immediate consequences of decisions made long ago (and even being made today) by someone in power who cared only for his or her own selfish concerns, without thinking of what it would mean for generations to come.

Seeing things like this changes something inside you and makes you reconsider what you really have to offer and why you’re offering it. It brings up questions you’ve never considered before that demand answers you don’t have…yet!

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