This week, the team at Red Earth have been busy assessing schools which are part of the Achievement Award!
The schools receive training and support throughout the academic year. This support comes from a field officer (like myself) who visits schools to run training, observe lessons, assist with making learning aids, and work with individual staff on strategies for teaching and managing behaviour. The support given can probably be broadly categorised into three areas: interactive teaching strategies, positive behaviour management and classroom environment (for a more detailed explanation please look at the RedEarth website!). At the end of the academic year (November), all schools are assessed against RedEarth’s Achievement Award criteria. Each teacher receives a level (Foundation – Gold) and the school also receives an overall level.
We work in five teams of four (the vast majority of assessors are Ugandan)– there are 49 schools to assess! My team consists of Janet (RedEarth Project manager and Team Leader – from Masindi and former teacher in Masindi), myself (RedEarth volunteer Field Officer), and two Government Inspectors. My team are great – I love working with Janet.
This is what a standard assessment day looks like:
At 7.30am, we all meet at the RedEarth Centre and arrange files and papers. Any time between 7.45 and 9am, we leave for the school (I’m still getting used to ‘Ugandan time’!)
We then drive to the school. Sometimes this is straight forward; sometimes this involves passing along roads which have been flooded by the swamp either side (“I don’t know how deep it is, we just pray”. We all hold our breath as we bump through the muddy water.)
Once in school, we split into teams of two – myself and Janet, as RedEarth, each have a team. We observe every teacher for half an hour and complete a very long checklist and comment sheet. There are also interviews to be conducted, either at lunch or break. I always interview the teachers. The other team members interview the Head Teacher, the Senior Management Committee and the pupils. We then have some more marksheets to fill out about the external and internal environment (my least favourite job is checking the latrines…).
Often the Head Teacher gives us a soda, and we sit under the mango trees to drink before heading back to base.
Once back we have a late lunch, moderate the grades, spend time poring over criteria, and write the report. This sounds a bit boring, but I love writing reports (I discovered this when competing my dyslexia course).
Good Practice Seen
The schools I’ve seen differ widely, but I’ve seen some great practice! Here is some of it:
- I observed a lesson about sinking and floating where each table was given a bucket of water and different objects (including the teacher’s keys…) so that pupils could conduct their own experiment!
- I saw some use of open questions in a lesson on human rights! (This is rare in the Ugandan school system).
- In a few lessons I saw really effective group work! The pupils often comment in the interview that they really enjoy being able to work in pairs and groups, sharing ideas and competing for group points.
- I saw some really positive relationships – teachers smiling at pupils, laughing with them, all pupils keen to answer questions (how often do you get all hands up in a British classroom?!)
My favourite part of the week, however, was the ‘lively’ debate we had in the car home about the role of women – whether washing clothes and cooking was ‘women’s work’ or whether men should help, whether women should be allowed to socialise, whether men should have multiple wives and concubines. I was pretty quiet (not my culture…not my debate?) whilst everyone else argued in a mixture of Runyoro and English (though my comment that I wouldn’t date a man who couldn’t cook produced a lot of incredulous laughter from one camp…)
Obviously, I felt the argument for equality of women was by far the most powerful. “Do we not have hearts? Do we not have minds?” Quite.