21 December 2010


FROM my experience, early childcare is one of the biggest expenses any family has faced. As a parent and teacher, I have resolved that I owe it to myself to ensure my children get a true educational advantage from this investment.

Research reveals that early childhood experiences have powerful effects on the development of children’s physical and emotional abilities. It also influences their achievements in math, logic, language and music.

According to studies carried out in different countries across the world, children from poor families were found to be a year or more behind in language skills due to limited exposure and poor care.

The findings also reveal that children who grow up in an organised and calm home are more likely to have good early reading skills by the age of five and six.

Children who get the poorest support often face multiple challenges since most of them are less likely to have been born to well educated parents or living with their biological parents.

Unfortunately, it is undeniable that educational inequality exists and starts early in the lives of children. It leaves children from disadvantaged homes struggling to keep up throughout their school life.

Despite the economic challenges leading to poverty, all hope should not be lost. Good parental involvement in the early education of a child can lead to great triumph.

Parents need to continually encourage their children to aim at excelling by insisting on success through hard work. This reduces the levels of school dropouts and adult unemployment.

Children will be keen to learn honesty, respect, love and hard work at an early age if well provided for at home and school. The teaching of critical thinking skills that help children to solve problems in a constructive way should also start at an early age. These skills become useful in the child’s life as they grow up being more confident to find solutions to problems instead of complaining or being complacent.

Reading to children and taking them to libraries (not a common practice in this country) is found to be helpful in limiting poverty. As children read too often, they form healthy relationships with others as they develop their listening and communication skills.

They are eager to learn as they get sufficient knowledge necessary to help them finish school and build a productive life. The social skills children need to succeed in school and work are developed at an early age. It is therefore important that children get a good educational background because it reduces links with anti-social behaviour, detrimental to their success.

If a parent or guardian, chooses to educate a child, they should give it their best by investing in good years education programmes that provide a foundation for the child’s success.

In the picture Rune Gustavsen from Norway( http://www.facebook.com/rune.gustavsen1) driving a point to SPACC kids.

Wondering what our readers out there think about this?


WHEN exam results are released, adverts about how students performed dominate the media. In my view, the performance of a school should not be measured by the number of first grades it gets.

One educational researcher warns that those wishing to exercise leadership in education must go beyond accepting the inadequate criteria used to determine that schools are doing well.

Good results cannot be used as the standard of performance. The performance of a learner studying with limited resources, with another studying in an enabling environment should be viewed differently.

Schools have different curricula and can emphasise some aspects over others. For instance, making comparisons between students’ performance in math in one district with those in another, without taking into consideration cultural differences, allocation of time for instruction or teaching approaches and exposure, makes it hard to account for the differences in performance.
Nowadays, many schools are business-minded, and bad results mean going out of business.

The reward system that pays school heads based on the performance of their students in standardised tests has consequences for a school’s priorities.

There is a danger of narrowing the curriculum to what is to be tested and dividing subjects into core subjects while marginalising others. This violates the function of schooling which is to enable students do better in life — what students learn in school should exceed in relevance to the limits of the schools programme.

We need to emphasise individuality in our assessments. Educational achievement should be assessed by the way learners use what they have studied to do what they want to do.
We’d love to hear your thoughts! Please hit the comment link and let us know what you think

A good teacher is never forgotten

A few years ago, for the older folks at least, there was that one teacher who would make your heart skip.
Not because they were big and carried a menacing cane that would give you the creeps throughout their lesson. No. Actually they were that rare breed of teacher who made your heart skip in excitement at the prospect of the next lesson.
You would not miss the lesson for the world, because you knew it would be interesting, filled with humour, and the experience would entirely blow your mind.
It is no wonder you passed the subject your favourite teacher taught almost effortlessly. Now years later, you still remember them, hoping they remember you too. Indeed every road you take along the path of success is a tribute to them.
But what made these teachers tick?
•“They are very practical and like involving students in teaching.
They crack jokes without going off topic and keep the whole class on their toes because you never know if the next thing she says is a very important point or a joke, and you would want to catch both. She encourages us to ask questions and you feel a part of the class.”
•They can help children achieve their full potential, through creative teaching methods and the use of positive discipline; one who genuinely cares about the students, and understands their learning process, treating them like the special individuals they are.
•They go beyond just giving students information, to helping them understand and absorb this information and equipping them to apply it to everyday situations and “Much as they want the children to pass, they do not encourage cramming.”

Learning is basically a four-step process which starts with the children grasping the information, analyzing it, exploring it and, finally, applying it. Grasping the information involves getting to know the basic facts. Analyzing involves comparing what has just been grasped to what the student already knows. Analyzing is deep. A student’s mind churns out what is useful, and tries to make sense of it. The step of exploring is where the student finds out what the information means to them before applying it in their daily lives. At each stage of the learning process, a good teacher equips the students with the relevant skills, and the rewards to the teacher are immense, in form of excellent performance.

•Some students value a teacher who gives them freedom and encouragement.
“The first thing is that a good teacher should not cane the students. The teacher should encourage the students to follow our dreams even though they may be outside the strict academic arena. I personally liked football and I respected teachers who encouraged me to play. I ended up passing their subjects.”
Many times teachers use intimidation and threats of punishment to get students to comply with their orders but one of the characteristics of a not-so-good teacher.
“I absolutely detest teachers who use the cane. Another thing is that a good teacher should not involve himself or herself in love relationships with students. They should be friendly without crossing the line,”
Well, such is the pedigree of a successful teacher, managing to be an educator who commands respect from students while maintaining a warm approachable demeanor.
Yes, such is the status of a wonderful teacher: being remembered with reverence and fondness that border on idolatry. And when the time comes, they shall sit back and bask in the glow of flawless legacy.

19 October 2010

Trauma students face when fees are no...

Many times we find that we have to spend lots of money; for instance during big days like chrismas, regular visits to pubs and come January, you will have exhausted both your account and month’s advance. Your pockets will be virtually empty and guess what? Children have to report to school.

As a student, I felt secure going to school when my fees was fully paid. I felt a deep-seated right to walk straight with my head held high.

However, whenever my fees was not completed, I thought my name would at any moment be read among the fees defaulters, consequently humiliating me before fellow students.

A friend at a college went through a similar predicament. His father told him that tuition would be paid later that semester. Full of hope, he waited until the last quarter of the semester when the bad news was broken to him that Dad could not get the fees. This was after three months of preparation for exams, which he did not sit for. He did not report for the next semester fearing the same fate would befall him.

Ironically, dad got the money but his son had not bothered to attended lectures.
Research shows that in the examination rooms, students who have defaulted on school fees payment get anxious when an invigilator walks in. Whereas those, who have cleared tuition fees, will not be bothered, their counterparts are affected and lose concentration. In the end, their academic performance declines.

“Students are overcome by uncertainty and so the motivation to read for exams lessens,” students do not relax when their school fees are not paid. “They are pessimistic doubting their fees will be paid at all. Why should I bother reading yet I am not going to sit for papers anyway?” if a student is not well prepared, he or she likely to perform poorly especially if they are compelled to run up and down trying to find the tuition fees. Students also feel out of place when others have cleared tuition fees while they have not. Sometimes at the school assemblies, names of fees defaulters are read out loud. “It feels quite humiliating when the selection is done openly and the list of defaulters made public,” and being dismissed from school exposes the financial woes of the student’s family. This indirectly affects the student’s self-esteem and self-image.
It can cause psychological torture that a student collapses when faced with the possibility of missing exams. It is a great challenge for a student to understand such a situation. It seems as if their world has been shattered.

Dear reader out there what do you think we should do to counter such instances? What is your experience like elsewhere? How have you managed to maneuver?

13 October 2010

Are you a parent? Do you work with kids? Are you concerned about their safety?

Here is a sampling of the types of questions KidSafe can help you answer:
Do you know what to say when your child comes to you with a personal safety question?

Do you know what your preteen/teen does on line?

When should I start talking with my child about their private parts? How do I do it?

Do you know if your child's teacher has had a background check? Would it matter?

Do you know how to best be an approachable parent? Active listener?

What should your child do if they are being bullied?

What should your child do if they are home alone and there is a knock on the door?

What would you want your child to do if they were touched on their private parts by their babysitter? Family member?

22 September 2010

26 July 2010

Bomb blasts: how safe are rural schools?

Uganda is on high security alert following the recent bomb attack. The survey carried out in schools around the city,found a security lapse in most of them. How about rural schools?

How possible is it to enforce security in a school where children study under trees, without desks and the schools lack fences? Does it mean that the bomb attackers only target the affluent? I request that the authorities think of the security of all children in Uganda, not just those based in urban areas. Teachers in rural schools need to be sensitised over security consciousness. I do not buy the assumption that urban-based schools are more insecure.

16 July 2010


Watch the online video from our Uganda visit and see how you and your students can get involved in this global project next year. Have your students help teach a variety of concepts to the children in Kakiri, Uganda. Start by watching the video http://Brains.org/uganda

25 May 2010


After visiting the Springs Alive school in remote Kakiri, Uganda, we have
designed a plan of action. Because of the inconsistencies in student attendance, the variability and shortage of trained teachers and the poverty level, we want to help set-up a student-centered learning center for them. We desperately need teachers to volunteer their class of students (either this year or next year) to design learning sheets, in a variety of subjects. These will then be taken to the school in Uganda hopefully in December. Can you help? If so, please reply to this newsletter and I'll gladly send you an information sheet with what we need.
The following teachers have already volunteered to help:
**Ann Otwell at Chestnut Log Middle School in Douglasville, GA has volunteered her students to make middle grade life science and earth science learning sheets.
**Jayne Perkins, a 6th grade teacher in Berwick, Maine has volunteered to help assemble materials.
**Denise De Felice, in Brazil, an ELL teacher has volunteered to help train adults in the use of materials via Skype teacher volunteers to help design lesson sheets.
I have some new pictures posted from our Uganda trip on the website. The
disparity between the US and Uganda is hard to describe in words. But, I
did write a bit on it. If you'd like a copy of my article, "The Baby in Red" and
a photo of some of the beautiful Ugandan children I met at the school, reply
to this, or send me an email with "The Baby in Red" in the subject line.
We are also glad to mention the intentions of two volunteers, Summer Montacute and the father(of ages 26 and 63), interested in volunteering for Springs Alive this summer around August 2010. Both have several years of teaching experience, especially teaching English as a Second Language and are UK/US citizens. They will be volunteering with us, for a period of several weeks (probably not more than 3 weeks)
This addition was posted by Martin

10 May 2010

Our Plan of Action for Springs Alive School

To: Martin Sebuliba, Director, Springs Alive School
Dear Martin,
I want to thank you again for the opportunity to visit your school and meet your teachers and the students and the families in your village. The music, dancing singing and pageantry was outstanding and we were honored to be a part of your graduation ceremony.
As promised, I have returned to the United States with a better understanding of your situation and the needs of the children in your village.
From my perspective, I would summarize the situation as follows:
You have several obstacles to a thriving and effective school including a lack of electricity, a lack of textbooks and other teaching materials, underpaid and underprepared faculty, Inconsistency in student attendance, inconsistency in teacher attendance, variation in teacher's use of English, and an inability to consistently and predictably get materials and money to the site.
Therefore, I believe the most effective way to improve student learning and increase effectiveness is to move your school system to what we in the United States call, “student - centered”.
This has become an increasingly popular methodology here in the US to overcome many of the same issues you are dealing with there (lack of attendance, dropout rates, inconsistent teacher supply). The educational research done here in the last 2 decades has shown that student-centered schools have in fact improved student learning, student engagement, and student outcomes.
The basic principle here is to put the emphasis on the student for driving his or her own learning. The teachers (or trained adult) in the room act more as a facilitator or coach and works one-on-one with students as needed. Because the emphasis is on student directed learning rather than teacher - centered delivery, the instruction is not affected by inconsistent attendance or lack of trained teachers.
I would propose that we begin by setting up a list of basic competencies for each of your grade levels (or preferably, a multi-age grouping). Then we would begin to assemble a variety of student hands-on activities to teach each of the competencies.
These activities would come with a small test and answer key for the teacher. The teacher then would mark off when a child passed on the competencies and they would move on to another. Once a satisfactory number of competencies has been passed, the student would graduate to the next grade level.
If this is something that is of interest to you and your teachers, I will spearhead the development of the program here in the US. We may have to concentrate on one grade level at a time. Once the activities are put together, we would need to return to your school and provide a day or two of training with your teachers so that they would be familiar with how to help the students engage. We could start right away in this next term using many of the materials and activities that we left there at the school last week.
I believe this would be the most effective way to advance your school and would eliminate the pressure for monetary funds and / or the pressure to find and pay for registered teachers. The only obstacle might be securing the learning materials on a day-to-day basis.
You might be interested in knowing too, that as a result of our visit last week, we have 2 side organizations running - one to bring dresses to the girls in your village on our next visit and one to purchase and bring student tables your upper grade classrooms on our next visit.
I look forward to hearing from you and look forward to continued cooperation between us.


Dr Kathie F Nunley,

04 May 2010


Hello - I've returned from my great adventure in Uganda and am so excited to share what we did, what we saw and what plans we have to continue to help the Springs Alive school. We ended up with over 200 pounds of school supplies which we took packed in our luggage. I've updated the website page with some photos from our day: http://help4teachers.com/uganda.htm

And also a plea to teachers out there to help us keep this school moving. Due to irregular attendance (If you saw the village area, you would understand why many children are unable to come some days) and the instability of a trained teacher supply, we need to help them set-up a student-centered learning environment. I need help from all of you - curriculum planners and teachers to help us get a list of basic skills and activities that can be used by the students to learn those skills. Email me (or reply to this newsletter) if you and your students can get involved with this

In other news, I'll be heading back to Canada a couple of times this month to continue Layered Curriculum® training with the Toronto District. June will be New York City month, with 3 trips down there starting with a keynote at the city-wide parents conference and continued work with ELL teachers. I also have a trip to Chicago in June.

I still have some openings in my August workshop calendar as well as one in September and one opening in December. If you are looking to schedule a workshop for the next school year, please send me an email or visit: http://help4teachers.com/workshops.htm

As always, my best to yours,

30 April 2010

Thank you Dr.Kathie

Dear Dr.kathie
Thank you
This was more than a giving hand that you stretched out to all of us at SPACC.
It was an event that can never be forgotten, a debt we cannot pay back. You really humbled us.
Surely SPACC can never be same again because of the learning materials you offered us, the sweet and polite speech you gave, lots of encouraging words you aired out to the community let alone the orientation we are yet to achieve of becoming Springs Alive children’s “learning” centre!
Thank you for accepting to be part of SPACC, besides affirming your endorsement with us. It is such a big commitment and also a wonderful achievement to us, we still have much to give back!
Also special thanks to Mr. Philip and Kelley for all they have done for us. We are sorry for any inconveniences you experienced. May the good lord give you long life, may you live to see many good days! God always be merciful to you for the mercy you have shown to SPACC!
Best regards;
Nalwebuga Teddy
Head teacher SPACC

01 April 2010


Welcome to April and spring! After our floods this week here in New England, today's sunshine is very welcome.I have a favor to ask of you who teach lower elementary. As you may remember, I'm making my first trip to Uganda later this month to bring materials and teaching strategies to a poor rural village school. The teachers are primarily untrained members of their community who teach
children aged 4 - 12 basic reading, writing, math and health. They need teaching strategies and lessons. I'm hoping some elementary teachers may have or be able to put together some simple (1 page) lessons as far as how to teach alphabet (perhaps a sheet explaining how to teach each letter, or cursive), math, hygiene, etc. I'm not looking for "handout masters" as the school has no electricity nor paper, so lessons are done verbally using a chalk board. I just need ways that the adults can learn HOW to teach elementary concepts. I can also take electronic "power point"
presentations for teachers as they do have a laptop that they charge in town and then can bring out for the teachers to view. Email me if you need more information or are interested in helping in other ways utilizing your own students to construct lessons. Before my trip to Uganda, I'll be returning next week to Toronto for a day of Layered Curriculum® training at North Albion Collegiate and then to
Oklahoma City for a day at Heritage Hall. New workshops are in the planning for New York and Oklahoma. My calendar is posted on the website. If you are looking to schedule a workshop for the next school year, please send me and email or visit:http://help4teachers.com/workshops.htm
As always, my best to yours,Kathie

16 February 2010


THE reason why there is a wide gap in performance between rural and urban schools is because of exposure. Students in urban schools are exposed to many learning materials and experiences which help them recall real concepts during examinations.

They visit zoos, national parks and sanctuaries, among others, which make them remember certain concepts.
(in the picture Pupils look at chimpanzees at Wildlife Education Centre. Such visits help them grasp concepts better)
Teachers in urban schools are given allowances to have extra hours of teaching which makes the learners grasp concepts at their own pace.

Coaching in urban areas is done under cover although the ministry banned teaching during holidays. Children of senior government officials are taught during holidays.

Children in urban schools are exposed to UNEB past papers and monthly revision papers which rural schools don’t have. Boarding schools in urban areas nurture children to become responsible. This makes them concentrate during preps and extra teaching at night. But in rural schools where children are day scholars, concentration is minimal as pupils spend most of their time doing domestic chores.

Lack of role models in rural schools is another factor. Teachers come to school on foot, others on old bicycles and others are drunkards. This makes the children imagine education is all about drinking and leisure.

Many children in rural schools go without lunch. The poor learning environment also causes many to drop out.