This is Harriet’s story; an extraordinary tale of resilience in the face of hardship

This is Harriet, a 36 year old teacher at Kabalye Settlement Primary School.  She was trained by Redearth in 2008 and excelled. We have selected her for further training as a ‘Leading Teacher’. In this role she will be able to train teachers from other schools in harrietimagethe Redearth course, ‘Developing Good Practice in Teaching & Learning’.

This is Harriet’s story; it is extraordinary in its tale of resilience and difficulty.

‘I was born in Bigando (a village outside Masindi Town) in 1975. My mother had 13 children (there remain 11 alive). It was very difficult for my father to get enough money to look after the family, and sending them to secondary school (which had to be paid for) was almost impossible.

I managed to complete senior 4 (equivalent of year 11) because I collected money through making and selling banana pancakes. I wanted to be exemplary for my family but my father could not pay fees for more education for me; ‘I am a peasant farmer’,  he told me.

I decided that I would go to our local Kamurasi College to train as a teacher. (In Uganda you can train as a teacher after S4) I stayed there 2 years and passed!! I was not yet married – my interest was studying.

My first job was at a private school. I met my husband that time… He was struggling too….

We met and we talked ……we rhymed.

Our first child, Ronald, was soon born. My husband went to Makerere University in Kampala to study. I had to help sponsor him as he is a man. This is our culture. It is an African tradition. When he graduated he could only afford to take his parents to his graduation. I will take my children to my graduation.

harrietI asked my husband if I could join S5 to complete high school. He said no – go for a ‘holiday programme’ (I would have been deleted from the payroll if I had joined S5 and I had been helping him during his studies)

He suggested I go for a diploma in primary teaching at National Training College.

I joined. I came and went to check on my family.

But Harriet’s story took a devastating turn; In 2010, her husband became very sick (life expectancy in Uganda is 47 years – he was in his thirties)

He passed away when I was due to complete my course at the college. Before that he had said ‘let us marry officially’, so we got married.

During the process of training I had to go to do my practice whilst he was sick. The day the external moderators were coming he was very sick. I told him what was happening. I asked him if I should get a relative to help him. He said no – you go. I went.

The next day he was admitted to hospital in Kampala (his uncles helped to finance this).

He died….

I have many dependents – sisters and brothers. I am trying to help them.  Now four of them remain at home. For the future… I cannot leave my sisters. If all goes well I will help them to do courses.

We asked Harriet how the Redearth Education training programme helped her…

It came at a period when I was working towards my grade 5 moderation. You trained me in the best practices and I was hstimulated from your training.

I started thinking ‘what can I do?’ There are many strategies I used. For example, the seating arrangements I learnt – they helped me in managing pupils in these large classes. Rewarding points also helped me, learning in groups – pupils helping each other and marking themselves.

Those methods, when I came and applied them in my teaching practice, even the moderators were wondering  …..is this the pupils who are bright,  or is it the teacher who is bright? It helped me as an individual to pass. I got a first grade in practical teaching.

It also helped the pupils. I collect problems which the pupils write to me. I give them to the HT so the HT can do something about it. The HT supports me to train other teachers.

The pupils noticed changes in my teaching. I asked them to write to tell me about my teaching methods.

Harriet went on to say that she was keen to upgrade in the future but it would be difficult for her to become a Deputy or a Headteacher because there would be many with better qualifications than she.

class3

Harriet is an amazingly positive person and a very gifted teacher. She took on the worst classroom at her school  in order to show the other teachers that whatever their learning environment was like, it could be made better. When her classroom became unsafe, she even got the children to ‘build’ a classroom outside under a tree, using tree branches, bamboo and reeds!  It had displays, learning aids and posters on the reed walls that were removed and replaced by the pupils at the end and beginning of each day.

She continues to live in Masindi with her two children.

Find out how you can support Lead Teachers like Harriet here.

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