By Joseph Lample, Executive Director – Kimanya Ngeyo Foundation for Science and Education Uganda.
On the 30th of March 2020, Uganda went on its first lockdown to curb the spread of covid-19. Most schools remained closed until November. In response to these circumstances, Kimanya-Ngeyo adjusted our Teacher Development project strategies and techniques in order to continuing reaching the communities and people we work with. We listened to the problems our teachers faced and focused on expanding our agricultural activities, given the pressing household needs of students, teachers, and their families. Our team also kept in touch with teachers to lay the foundations for when we would once again be able to carry out in-person training.
Our Teacher Development project began in 2015 and has spread to over 80 communities across Jinja and Buikwe districts. Teachers in our project study materials from the Preparation for Social Action (PSA) program. The aim of our general skills training is to improve student learning outcomes by emphasizing teacher preparation and understanding of content as a means to conducting active, relevant, and engaging lessons. When Covid-19 hit, however, we had to adapt.
During the lockdown period 39 teachers, divided into small groups, participated in two week-long trainings focused on the preparation of diversified high-efficiency agricultural plots. It wasn’t what they had trained for, but the pandemic demanded innovation. We also encouraged teachers that didn’t have access to plots of land to use whatever small space was available to them and establish “city gardens,” as outlined in our programme’s training materials.
Even tutors from the project team started their own gardens at home. All teachers were advised to share these efforts with students as well as neighbours. This small-scale agriculture came in handy after the many months of lockdown when food became increasingly expensive.
A teacher from Nakanonyi Primary School said, “I appreciate the PSA knowledge of making a city garden and after me and my kids planted some fast-growing crops, our neighbours caught on to the idea as well as they realized it would be cost saving.”
In addition to an emphasis on local food production, the tutor team made routine phone calls to new and previously trained teachers to find out how they were responding to the challenges presented to them by the pandemic. These communications helped keep the PSA program in the minds of the participants, a fact which led to a high participation rate once we resumed in-person trainings in December 2020 and January 2021. Teachers appreciated the engagement and new insights provided by the trainings after months of staying at home. They look forward to schools re-opening so they can implement the new skills and knowledge in their classrooms.
The team and the teachers will complete the study of PSA units with all the teachers and organizing a graduation early in 2021. We are all proud of the resilience and perseverance that was displayed during the pandemic and hope to utilise these new tools of virtual communication to reach and impact more communities in Uganda.
Covid-19 set us back on our heels but by listening to our partners and adapting to accommodate them, we managed to remain useful to them so that when learning restarted, we were able to work closer together than ever before.