As the Ugandan academic year drew to a close, the focus in schools shifted to testing. Primary 7s sat the high-pressure Primary Leaving Examination and younger children were tested to judge whether they should move from one class to the next. At Redearth, too, we rounded off the year with assessment – which was more exciting than you might think!
First, we tested samples of children all over the district in basic reading and maths. In 2014 only 10% of Ugandan pupils in Primary 3 and 31% in Primary 7 could read a Primary 2-level story in their own language. In some schools we visited these statistics were, unfortunately, easy to believe. However, our assessments also showed the positive impact Redearth reading programmes have had.
While conducting the maths tests, we were fascinated as one child after another drew marks along their arms, legs, and whatever they could find. After suggesting they use the paper, it became clear that they had been drilled in specific methods of counting by ones for all sorts of questions – which, for something like 7 x 9, clearly needs quite some room!
The end of the year also meant assessments for the annual achievement awards – an opportunity to evaluate, but also celebrate, the progress schools have made. Between us we visited all district schools in the Redearth programme (almost seventy!), observing lessons, speaking to stakeholders, and evaluating school environments.
After each visit we returned with stories of standout lessons and – especially for us as volunteers – surprises: the school which had grown learning aids from flowering plants, the evident astonishment in some interviews that positive behaviour management was having better results than beating, and topic choices which would have been avoided during any UK school inspection… (breastfeeding, for example?). In any case, there was much to be encouraged by and we’re looking forward to recognising the achievements of schools and teachers formally when the new school year begins.