This article is based on an interview with Lawrence Ssemakula, teacher at St. John's Primary, administrator, and cooperative of G.O.D. International.
Last summer, G.O.D. Int’l East Africa began a partnership with the school that borders our property in Uganda, St. John’s Primary. Throughout the year, we have been able to improve the school building itself, the land it sits on, and most importantly, the quality of education, and life, for the students who attend.
Initially, we were able to more than double its teaching staff. In regard to curriculum, a new, learner-participatory approach was taken, which emphasized demonstration, discussion, and group work over the traditional lecture, rote memorization method most common in East African schools. In addition, the amount of content taught has been reduced to allow for better understanding and application, and consequently more meaningful learning. Students have been considered for their own cognitive and intellectual abilities to create more accurate groupings. Courses themselves have been removed or added to ensure their practicality and applicability to the students’ real lives, both currently and into the future. Also, teachers have been attending to students' health care needs, especially wound care.
Previously, the school was either unaware of their needs, or unable to provide all of these things. The village’s response, combined with our efforts, is producing tremendous results. Students are experiencing caring and loving staff, manageable class load and activities, and regular teaching with timely feedback. Parents are sending more children to the school from other schools. Neighbors are constantly thanking the staff. The original staff is appreciative that we are helping to carry the burden. Our cooperatives and students are truly recognizing that what happens at St. John’s is their responsibility as a community sharing in the same vocation, to love their neighbors as themselves, to meet the needs of those more vulnerable and disadvantaged.
There is much, much more to do at St. John’s. This year was only the beginning, and improvements are already being made for next term. We thank God for the dedication of our cooperatives and students to participate in the education of the children in their midst.