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,

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