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Masulita Project

September 26, 2017

The Masulita, Uganda Professional Development Project is a joint endeavour operated in partnership with the Alberta Teachers’ Association. For three weeks each summer, Alberta teachers coteach with Ugandan educators in a government primary/secondary school in the town of Masulita or in a street project called Masulita Children’s Village.

Teaching in Africa leaves a permanent mark

Jodi Rosvold, Special to the ATA News

Someone once said, “I am not the same after having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world,” a sentiment I share after experiencing Africa.

Teaching in Uganda means facing more than 100 students who are often equipped with little more than a pencil and paper.

Like many who’ve travelled there before me, I anticipated extending my skills and experiences, but I soon realized that the teachers there far surpassed me in every way. When one is stripped of all comforts, resources and supports, the true test of teaching ability is measured.

Imagine teaching in a classroom with no books, computers, Chromebooks, Google Docs, electricity, supports, markers, papers, heat, air conditioning, whiteboards or other basic supplies we have in ample abundance. Imagine being without your occupational therapist, speech language pathologist, psychologists, behaviour specialists, educational assistants, learning support coaches, community resource workers, social services, volunteers and other valuable team members.

Imagine not having professional development opportunities or summer holidays. Imagine living at your school in a teacherage that’s smaller than your staff bathroom, your children accompanying you to work while they’re infants and then often being left with relatives once they’re school-aged.

Imagine having to walk miles to work or getting there by riding on the back of a motorcycle, using overcrowded public transportation or riding in a boat that lets in a little too much water. Imagine having to bathe yourself in a basin of cold water or using an outhouse that lacks a seat and toilet paper. Imagine making less in a month than a Canadian teacher does in a day and having no benefits, no pension and no job security.

Then imagine facing a class of more than 100 students, many of whom lack basic supplies and many facing possible expulsion because they can’t pay their school fees. Imagine having nothing but your voice, the creative use of natural materials and, if you’re lucky, a piece of chalk.

No, many of us cannot imagine all that.

Africa changed and challenged me, and I often left work wondering if anyone beyond the first two rows learned anything from me. No, I may not have mastered their curriculum and I may not have delivered my most effective lessons, but I do know I taught them one very important thing: that although this world is large and the people are many, these mazungos care. That, to them, is the greatest lesson of all.

And as for me, having seen their moon shine, I’ll never be the same. ❚

Jodi Rosvold teaches Grade 6 at Elm Street School in Medicine Hat.

Uganda experience brings amazement and gratitude

Steven Schultz, Special to the ATA News

Imagine teaching a Grade 10 chemistry classroom with 60 students squeezed into 20 desks in a small, rundown classroom at Masulita Secondary School in Uganda. The teacher, who has travelled for two hours from his home, walks in and asks the students to get their notebooks out. Out come tattered notebooks covered in newspaper or magazine pictures, along with pencils and pens. Closer observation reveals that some students have only a pencil that is barely large enough to hold. The teacher reaches into his bag for the two pieces of chalk he has for this class and begins writing notes on the board. Students frantically write down the notes and homework since the teacher is the only one with a textbook and students have no access to the Internet.

These are two experiences I got to observe and participate in.

Teachers prepare to travel to Bussi Island in Uganda to attend a numeracy and literacy workshop.

After observing and teaching for three weeks, I was left with

  • amazement at how a small investment by the ATA can change a complete community like Masulita;
  • deep gratitude for the teaching conditions I have;
  • appreciation for the resourcefulness of Masulita teachers — making paintbrushes out of sticks, using a pop bottle and straws to demonstrate lungs, raising chickens to supplement their income, building teacher hostels for travelling teachers; and
  • affirmation knowing my presence was an encouragement. ❚

Steven Schultz teaches science, agriculture and mechatronics at École Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School.

Words don’t do it justice

Tacy Olson, Special to the ATA News

I feel very privileged that I had the opportunity to take part in the Uganda Masulita project. It was truly a life-changing experience!

While in Masulita, teachers from Alberta stay in an orphanage compound, called Masulita Children’s Village. Living in the village and working so closely with the association helped to provide insight into the culture of Uganda, which made it easier to understand different learning styles and to adapt my teaching.

In Masulita, I worked with teachers in elementary and high school. We shared our best teaching ideas with each other and took time to observe each other teaching different lessons. I loved sharing some of my favourite songs and ideas with teachers in Uganda. I also learned invaluable skills
regarding teaching English as a second language students, because the vast majority of the students from Masulita come to school with very little English.

Alberta teacher Tacy Olson poses for a photo with a Ugandan teacher who inspired her with his ability to create art supplies out of everyday materials like bamboo sticks, sponges and sandpaper.

One of my favourite moments was when I worked with an extremely innovative and creative high school art teacher. It was fascinating to watch this teacher show students how to use natural resources around them to create art (because art resources are expensive and hard to come by for many people in Uganda). This teacher taught his students to make their own paintbrushes with small sponges tied to thin bamboo sticks and calligraphy pens made from bamboo sticks and sandpaper. It was inspiring to watch this teacher empower his students to make changes within their own communities and villages.

It’s hard to sum up in a few words all of my feelings and the scope of my experiences, but I will be forever grateful to the ATA for providing me with this unforgettable opportunity. ❚

Tacy Olson teaches a combined Grade 1/2 class at École Agnes Davidson School in Lethbridge.

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