Nov 5, 2018

Reaching more learners than ever!

Teachers, teachers and more Geneva Global teachers
Teachers, teachers and more Geneva Global teachers

Hello dear friends (or should we say family by now?)!

Time is flying faster than a Uganda crane bird! As we speak, we have entered the final month of teaching and learning for the 2018 school year. In other words: we wish we could clone ourselves to be able to finish everything we want to accomplish before 2019 begins… But, we are doing our very best, and we are excited to let you read & see what we have been up to since you last heard from us!

First of all, the cloning? We could say it happened in a certain way! From September to December, our team is including two interns from Windesheim University in Zwolle, the Netherlands. Marieke and Manouk are completing their minor within the course Social Work with us. Their main task: further develop and improve the guidelines that we use to train the school teams in setting up individual support plans for learners who experience difficulties. Complicated sentence? Yes! And that’s pretty much how complicated this task is as well. It involves lots of conversations with teachers, the schools’ management, parents, and learners; countless changes and additions to the guidelines; testing all improved version of these guidelines; and all this in a repeated cycle! We are impressed by their excitement and determination to do their work as well as possible, so that their internship has a true impact on the quality of education for children who experience learning difficulties. Keep checking our social media to stay updated on their progress!

The work our interns are doing genuinely takes our school-based program to a higher level. Thanks to our workshops that we have been doing with the teachers this year, the identification of possible learning difficulties among their pupils has improved quite a bit. Then: what’s next, when your first interventions are not immediately doing the trick? As Manouk and Marieke are finetuning this process, we are hosting the final few workshops for this school year. For example, behavioural difficulties and autism spectrum disorders have been our main focus recently - with the teachers, and with the parents as well. This meant looking at recognizing children with similar challenges at school AND at home. It meant cracking our brains together with both teachers and parents about strategies to help these children learn better, in the classroom and in the home environment. At the moment, we only have two more parents workshops to go this year, plus a good number of lesson observations to help the teachers implement their new knowledge and skills. We can’t wait to hear from all of them during our end-of-year evaluation!

September in particular has been an exciting month for us. If you are familiar with the Ugandan school year, you may wonder: why, isn’t September a holiday month? Correct! We may not have been at our partner schools in September, but we were invited by two amazing education-based organizations to train their teams on learning difficulties: Geneva Global and Teach for Uganda. We are very much aware of the fact that we are not able to reach every school in Uganda by ourselves. However, there are wonderful nonprofits active in Uganda that we can partner with to spread our message as widely as possible. What did this look like? A total of almost 400 education professionals, trained by our team within no more than 6 days. By now, they are all ready to use what they have learned in their daily work!

Pssst, can you keep a little secret? Did you know we are working on something INCREDIBLY EXCITING? The process is in its earliest stages, but the adrenaline is making it hard to keep quiet about it: together with the education departments of the local government in Gulu and a few other development organizations, we are looking into the possibility of opening an assessment center for children with all kinds of special needs. Right now, it is quite hard for parents in Gulu to access the needed professionals for proper diagnosis of their children’s difficulties. Most times, it requires making the long journey to Uganda's capital city Kampala to speak with expensive professionals. Our intention is to bring these services to Gulu instead. We are dreaming BIG and working hard to achieve this.

That’s all for now! Please keep an eye on our social media pages for regular updates and fun announcements. #GivingTuesday is coming up on 27 November, and we just so happen to know that GlobalGiving is planning an awesome matching opportunity to make your contributions have even more impact than they already do on any other day of the year. We will keep you posted!!

As always, apwoyo matek!

Marieke and Manouk @work
Marieke and Manouk @work
Autism spectrum disorders & ideal classroom design
Autism spectrum disorders & ideal classroom design
Aug 8, 2018

Dreams coming true, one step at a time

Student-teachers everywhere!
Student-teachers everywhere!

Greetings from our Gulu team!

We are about to wrap up the second school term of 2018, and so much has been & is still taking placing that we don’t even know where to start from with this update to you. When we founded this organization, we had big dreams. Those dreams became even bigger along the way. At the moment, we are actually seeing some of these dreams become a reality! Are you ready? Let’s go:

At our two partner schools, our project is running according to plan. We continue to be amazed by the positive attitude that the teachers at Gulu PTC Demonstration School have towards improving their support for children who experience learning difficulties. During this second school term, we have been emphasizing independent use of the skills that we trained the teachers in. Practising this during a workshop is one thing, but in the end, it’s all about using it in the classroom! As we explained before, we usually do this through lesson observations. Little did we know that teachers would become excited enough to start asking us to come and observe:

“Am I doing this right?”

“This child needs more help, how do you think I could do this better?”

And guess what? The same is happening at our new partner school, Highland Primary School! Since term 2 marked the beginning of our partnership, we had a number of workshops and lesson observations to catch up on. Fortunately, we found a team of teachers and school managers that is just as welcoming and eager as their colleagues at Gulu PTC Demonstration School. By now, we have finalized 4 teachers workshops, 7 days of lesson observations and a parents training at Highland. We are finding teachers starting to identify possible learning difficulties in their learners and looking at effective, individual ways forward for them. Term 3 will be the final, crucial step towards sustainable support for children with learning difficulties in these two schools. And then? Expansion time!

In the meantime, more dreams are starting to come true in collaboration with one of the local Primary Teachers Colleges and a Nursery Teachers College in Gulu. We were given the opportunity to introduce the concept of ‘learning difficulties’ to over 250 nursery and primary school teachers to be. We just can’t hide our excitement about this, because it means we are empowering current AND future teachers at the same time! We are looking forward to developing an approach that can establish the necessary skills and knowledge within the colleges itself, so that every single teacher will start his/her first day on the job ready to teach every single learner.

During the past couple of months, we have had the chance to be part of a process that is even bigger than we could dream of. As one of the few organizations focusing on learning difficulties in Uganda, we were honored to join a team of the Ugandan Ministry of Education, Kyambogo University and other nongovernmental organizations in the development of a new tool. This tool will help schools identify children with special educational needs as early as possible, so that they can be supported in the ways they need as early as possible. As we speak, the tool is being evaluated by the different departments at the Ministry of Education. After the final approval: ready to be used in the whole of Uganda!

As if all this wasn’t enough, it was finally time for our very first professional training for the Unified for Uganda team. U4U sponsors children at primary, secondary and university level and employs mentors who follow up on these children. We just loved their eagerness to learn more about what they can do to recognize and help learners with possible learning difficulties. At the same time, it seems to be a great way for us to spread the word about learning difficulties through existing projects, to make sure that absolutely everyone involved in the learners’ lives is on board. We can’t wait to do more of this - the next training at another organization is coming up in September.

We are busier than we have ever been, and we are probably more excited about that than would be healthy for us. We appreciate your support so, so much, without you all this would never be possible. Know that every contribution you make to our work through GlobalGiving goes an incredibly long way towards truly making every student count.

Apwoyo matek - thank you very much!

Presenting the new identification tool
Presenting the new identification tool
The U4U team at its finest!
The U4U team at its finest!
Teacher training @ Highland Primary School
Teacher training @ Highland Primary School
May 14, 2018

One surprise after another

Extra addition to our workshops: student-teachers
Extra addition to our workshops: student-teachers

Hello from sunny Gulu!

Yes, the first months of 2018 have been full of surprises for us. Were all of them good surprises? Not necessarily. Were most of them good surprises? Absolutely! Since we think you deserve honest reports more than happy reports, we are going to update you on all the details:

Surprise #1: Our new partner school - Gulu PTC Demonstration School - is doing more than amazing! As we speak, we have just finalized term 1 of this school year. That means 5 teachers workshops, 6 days of lesson observations, 1 parents training and 1 learning & evaluation meeting down. We were even given a 'bonus' of 16 student-teachers, doing their school practice. We are seeing teachers learn eagerly about the various learning difficulties. We are noticing teachers become more aware of the uniqueness of their students and relate more to their individual learning needs. We are observing teachers become more interested in the parents' experiences with their children, so that they can understand the origin of specific difficulties better. And perhaps most importantly: we are having open, honest conversations with the teachers about how complicated it can be to identify and help children with learning difficulties. In their words: "We feel so comfortable with the way you relate to us, that we can tell you what we don't know." We are honored and we can't wait to start off term 2 together!

Surprise #2: Working together with our oldest partner school - Gulu Primary School - proved to be more challenging this year. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to align our project activities with the school's programs, we had no choice but to conclude that this partnership was no longer viable. A tough decision, since our very first activities took place at this primary school. We are going to miss the teachers and students dearly and we are grateful for the support and learning experiences they gave us, it helped us get where we are today. On the bright side: Highland Primary School is welcoming us from the start of term 2! More to come about this new partnership in our next update to you.

Then, surprise #3 was visible for you on our very own GlobalGiving page: all our teachers workshops for 2018 were funded within one (!!) week! Between 9 and 13 April, GlobalGiving's Little by Little campaign offered a 50% match for all donations up to $50 to show that even the most humble donations can make a big difference. We saw quite a few of our lovely supporters take advantage of this opportunity. Did you...? Thank you once again! Now we will be able to complete our intensive training program for the teachers at our partner schools this year. 

More and more surprises keep coming! Our first professional training is already in the works for July, featuring the wonderful team at Unified for Uganda. We were invited for a conversation about trainings for one of the local Primary Teachers Colleges, which will involve about 200 student-teachers and their lecturers. Our next study skills holiday program for students may take place a little later than planned, because it may turn out quite a bit bigger than we had in mind... You will know more when we do!

Want to make a change with us every month of the year? Consider becoming a recurring donor through GlobalGiving! Go to our project page using the link below and set up a monthly donation of your choice. We believe every student counts - together, we can make that happen.

One of our favorite places to be!
One of our favorite places to be!
Thanks to you!
Thanks to you!

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