Teaching phonics, manoeuvring around mosquito nets & making “rice sack” books

Greetings from Masindi!

At this moment I am working at the table in the lounge of my little house.  The front door is open, as is the back door.  The breeze flows through the house and I am sitting admiring the view at the back of the house … blue sky, a mountain, fields of cassava … and a little black cat.  I feel pleased with myself.  It has taken two months but, at long last, I feel settled!

The work I am doing is interesting.  Redearth Education has been working in Masindi for some time, helping to improve the teaching and learning in the schools it supports.  Its founders are very focussed on the programme, not only making a difference today, but on ensuring the changes made are sustainable in the future.  The training given by the field workers and volunteers aim to help schools achieve specific targets – sustainable targets.  The schools, Head Teachers, Teachers, pupils and school community, want to achieve … and work hard to follow the targets set by Redearth.  It is very impressive – and very rewarding.  Alongside supporting whole school improvement, Redearth has also introduced a reading programme based on pure phonics.  The aim – to ensure children can read!  There are many languages used here in Uganda but they are mostly phonetic.  Teaching phonics … it ‘opens the door’ to the children.  In a very short time, they can read.  Inspiring!

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So, work goes well.  My house .. well, it is just lovely.  Well worth the wait.  There are some small oddities, like the mosquito net that has holes cut in them so you can open and close the windows. Or the front door that you can only close from the inside and the specially made, comfortable chair which has four different length legs.  But , this is Africa. And I just love it!

Masindi Town itself is quite special.  I liked it the first time I visited, before I actually applied to work here.  Now I live here, I am beginning to really appreciate it.  There is a lively and colourful market every day where I  buy fresh vegetables and fruit at only a very slightly higher price than the locals.  There are several small supermarkets which sell Heinz baked beans, cream crackers, bread and crisps – luxury! There are a few restaurants: New Court View, which has the most wonderful staff and a varying menu (dependent on the amount of money in the till to buy food) and Naju, where you can eat a quite delicious vegetable curry for just over £1.

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The ‘ex-pats’ who live here are a great mix of people.  I can truthfully say that everyone has been friendly and welcoming.  People working in education, supporting with water availability, religious organisations, medical workers and academics completing their thesis.  A variety of people, all with different reasons for being in Uganda: Lynn and Ronnie (my bosses), Caroline (another founder of Redearth from South Africa), Laura (ex VSO from Spain), Maz (a truly wonderful and special young lady), Constance (a colleague), Catherin and Willis, Sally, Sam and Tom, and Wilson (my boda driver) …. too many lovely people to mention.  I feel really lucky.

Oh well, I need to get back to work now.  Today’s mission – making a couple of ‘rice sack’ books in Runyuro (the local languages) then taking them into town to get them stitched.  I wish I was more of an artist, I wish I could work faster, I wish there were more ‘local language’ books available for the children to read to practice their new found skills.

Written by Redearth Volunteer Lisa Kehat

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