In schools, in the United States and elsewhere in developed countries around the world, more and more students are using tablets, Chromebooks and other electronic devices in their classrooms replacing traditional textbooks, but in Third World countries, such as Uganda where in many places there is not even electricity, books remain the primary educational teaching tool.
That’s why, we are hoping to fill a 40-foot container soon with some 22,000 books to ship to our partner there, Bega Kwa Bega (Shoulder to Shoulder) for distribution to at least 170 rural schools in the 16 districts where it works.
Bega kwa Bega (BkB) program manager David Ssagala notes that “Education is of critical importance to any development agenda,” and that for 22 years BkB “has included strong elements of education in every project we manage.
“We have educated thousands of villagers, built and repaired schools, developed model schools, trained teachers at our Teacher Development Center and provided educational resources to hundreds of schools, including textbooks.”
What is innovative about BkB is that once they receive the books from Bread and Water for Africa® is that they do much more than simply drop off boxes of books at the schools, they ensure the teachers know how to use them and how to convey the information they contain to their students.
“BkB’s outreach program will recruit teachers from all over the country to participate in our training event and use our resources to learn and improve their classroom skills,” says David. “We plan to distribute books to at least 170 of the outreach schools where the participating teachers are employed.
“Upon receiving the books, teachers will be coached on how to use them and how to help their students use the books to improve their literacy and become lifelong learners.”
He also pointed out that BkB is constructing an “education renewal center” which includes a model nursery school, a primary school and a center for professional development of teachers and early educators.
“Realizing the poor state of primary education in Uganda, and drawing from the expertise gained from our two successful nursery school programs, BkB will achieve a level of superior scholastic achievement through a careful and meticulous training program for teachers,” he told us.
“This training will allow for a curriculum that teaches students a broad array of necessary subjects, both traditional and new, to prepare students for secondary school and beyond,” he added. “Lessons learned by teacher trainees will benefit schools and students all over Uganda and in other African countries.”
David also provided us with a vivid picture of the communities and schools where the books will be distributed noting, that most of the outreach schools which will receive the books are located in rural areas where the literacy level in men is just over 50 percent, and less than 45 percent in women.
The majority of the people in these communities are what he describes as “farming peasants,” and the primary schools their children attend consist of as many 800 students, with class sizes as large as 70 students per teacher.
“Few schools have power, water or sanitary facilities with children sharing outdoor latrines. The only physical items available in most classrooms are one bench seat per six children, one blackboard and chalk for the teacher, and perhaps one textbook per every 10 students.
And David gave several reasons why the need for more new books for the students are so critical:
“Most children find it difficult to learn and master their reading skills – especially in English – due to a lack of books.
“Due to economic hardships, neither the government nor the local community has funds to establish libraries.
“Teachers have an acute shortage of books and materials for their continuous professional development. They must rely on their college lecture notes, and those loaned to them by colleagues.
“There are no public libraries for the most part in Uganda. The shipment of textbooks and materials will enable the Teacher Development Center to better serve the educational needs of both the local teachers and students, plus offer reading materials to the local community on a lending-library basis.
And when do they hope to receive the books from Bread and Water for Africa® that the schools and students so desperately need to progress forward with their education?
“As soon as possible,” says David.