Wednesday, November 12, 2008

There Are No Practicals, Yet

"Sister Endie, what is the meaning of transplantation?" a student at St. Kizito asked in his attempt to quiz me on his science lesson. "Well," I responded confidently, "Transplantation is when you move plant from one place to another." "No Sister Endie, transplantation is the movement of a baby plant from the nursery to the main garden," he quickly corrected me. Hmm, I thought. "OK, when we moved the full grown banana plant from the front of our home, to the back, isn't that transplantation as well?" "No Sister Endie," the young boy chuckled at my foolishness. "Transplantation is the movement of the baby plant from the nursery to the main garden.

I use this example time and time again to demonstrate the flawed practice of rote learning. The children in Uganda wait silently as the teacher writes on the black board, they recite the information then copy it into notebooks. The children are never given an opportunity for practical application of the subject matter learned.

One of our workers presented this problem to us one day when a pulley system was made to dig the latrines. "Ah," he says, "so this is how you make a pulley. I have drawn one many times and I know how one works, but have never made one. This is the problem with Ugandan education... There are no practicals."

Realizing this obvious problem in the education system, we have decided to create after school programs for the children in the schools we build giving them the opportunity to reinforce the information learned in school with hands-on, creative, independent, and fun projects. The children will not only learn a practical use of that information, but will strengthen their communication and English language skills. We are very excited about these programs and are working closely with several retired teachers in the Blue Point/Bayport area to develop lesson plans and project ideas for when it is time to implement the programs.

I can only hope to teach the children to independently think through problems and generalize their education to all aspects of their lives. These programs will help them realize that, yes transplantation is the movement of the baby plant from the nursery to the main garden, but it is also the movement of a plant from one place to another.

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