In at the Deep End

Today was a truly amazing day and one that we will definitely not forget for a very long time! After a very, very late night preparing resources, we woke up at 7am and showered. Both of our showers were amazing on day one, but now seem to be only a slight trickle of lukewarm water. We had our breakfast and then set off in the minibus. Medi, our driver, dropped the whole team off at the ‘Pont’ headquarters and from there, we all set off in different directions to head to our schools.

Upon our arrival back at Busiu Primary School, Sam and all the children were so happy to see us. We had a quick chat with Sam, in his office, before going straight into our classes to teach for the day. Many teachers are still not in school here, so Sam was so grateful that we were able to each take a class. Mr Prewett went into P4 (Year 4) and Mr Mansfield went into P5 (Year 5). 

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Mr Mansfield’s Morning:

I started off by introducing myself and explaining to the pupils, where Wales was. It really made me think about how much I take technology for granted! If I had been in my classroom back at St. Julian’s Primary, within a matter of seconds, I could’ve just pulled up google Earth and shown the distance on a virtual globe. I stood in the classroom this morning drawing a map of the world on the blackboard with white, blue and green chalk. (I was quite impressed with my artistic talent – Mrs Lewis and Mrs Dennis would have been proud!!) I explained to them that Wales was 10,000 miles away from Uganda and that we had travelled on an aeroplane for many hours, to be here. I showed them the Welsh flag and told them the story of how the red dragon ended up on it. We talked about the population of Uganda (37 million) and compared it with the population of Wales (3.2 million people); they were amazed at the difference!

Next, I taught them about the Welsh language. We started off saying ‘Bore Da’(Good Morning) to each other, then ’Sut wyt ti? (How are you?), then Da iawn diolch’ (I’m very well, thank you) and finally, ‘Bendigedig’. Then we turned it into a song and sang it to the tune of ‘Frere Jacques’. They loved singing; especially when I filmed them on my iPad and played it back to them through the bluetooth speaker that I brought with me. They were absolutely stunned and kept wanting to watch themselves over and over, needless to say, they knew the song very well by the end of the morning.

After the short Welsh lesson, I introduced them to everyone in my class by showing them the self-portraits we had sketched last week. They also really enjoyed reading the information that the pupils in Y6LPM/KL had written about themselves. They had a go at sketching their own self-portraits. I handed out plain paper as some of them can’t afford exercise books. Mr Watts, our caretaker, had given us some pencils to bring out to Uganda. As I started the children sketching, I noticed some of them didn’t have anything to draw with. I gave pencils to the two boys who didn’t have anything and before I knew it, the whole class had hidden their pencils, so they could have a new one! Although I had been told that many children couldn’t afford school supplies, before I came out to Africa, it was a real eye-opener to actually be in the classroom and see first-hand, children who were desperate for books and stationery. One boy was even making notes on an folded up old newspaper, writing over the top of the print, because he couldn’t afford paper. Seeing the joy on his face when I gave him one of the exercise books we had bought yesterday, was absolutely priceless! I literally had tears in my eyes as I watched him carefully write his name on the front of the book, in the corner of the classroom. He sat there for at least a minute just flicking through the pages. In future, when I give exercise books out back at home, I will certainly be reminding our pupils how lucky they are to get school supplies given to them.

The bell then rang for break time and Mr Prewett and I went to sit outside to eat fresh pineapple and bananas, with Sam. We hardly spoke to each other because we were so exhausted from teaching the first lesson! After break, we returned to class for a two-hour period. I began with mathematics. From training back home, and from many years of teaching maths lessons, it has become obvious that using resources to help pupils visualise mathematical concepts, greatly helps their understanding and also helps pupils to remember strategies and techniques. As a result, if you were to walk into any of our classrooms at St. Julian’s Primary, you would immediately see an abundance of maths resources stuck up all around the classroom, on blue velcro boards. Here, the walls and cupboards were completely bare. When I pulled out the ‘Magic’ counting stick and number squares, which Mr Prewett and I had spent all night making, the children were completely absorbed and engaged. We practised and reinforced times tables, found missing numbers and guessed the number sequences. Even the teacher loved the new resources. These activities lead into teaching the vertical written method of multiplication (3 digits x 2 digits). Many children were using the multiplication square for support, as they worked. It is our hope that we will be able to buy all the materials which we used to create them, and inspire each of the teachers to create their own and continue to use them in their lessons. The headteacher was really behind it and was so grateful to us for our ideas and for offering to buy the resources. So Linda Thomas and team… your training has gone global and our Ugandan versions of your resources are a huge hit and will hopefully really help the pupils (and teachers) at Busiu Primary!

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After maths, it was time for some English. We talked about our hobbies and other information about ourselves. The pupils were amazed when I said ‘talk to the person next to you and tell them what you like to do’. At first, I thought they had misunderstood, but the teacher said that they were just shocked because they are not usually allowed to talk to each other during lesson. It was interesting to see that many of the things that they enjoy doing, were similar to things that pupils in my class at home, enjoy doing. Singing, dancing and playing football were among the top favourite hobbies. It took a lot of modelling on the board, to explain the content and layout of the letter, but many produced excellent letters. We don’t use blackboards much, anymore, so using the chalk took a bit of getting used to! I kept snapping mine from pressing too hard against the board. The blackboards here are in a terrible state, so on the way home from school, we bought some tins of blackboard paint and we plan to restore all of the blackboards before we leave tomorrow. Sam was delighted with this and showed so much gratitude. 

To finish the morning, I taught my class how to make origami t-shirts. We drew the dragon on the front and turned them into Welsh rugby shirts.

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Mr Prewett’s Morning:

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It was quite a shock to walk into a class of nearly 100 children! All of the children looked very excited. I started by introducing myself and teaching the children how to say ‘Bore da Mr Prewett’ before getting to know each other a little bit and telling the children some facts about Wales. They seemed to love hearing the story about how the dragon came to be on the flag. We followed this up by singing a song we often sing in assembly; ‘There’s a dragon on the flag’. The children were great and, although the words were not easy for them, they gave the song a really good go! I then asked the children to draw the dragon from our flag; I couldn’t believe how good their drawing skills were. I was also taken aback at how many children did not have a pencil to draw with. Lots were trying to share one pencil per row and many had used their rubbers so much that there was barely anything left of them. Luckily, Mr Watts, our caretaker, had given us some pencils, rubbers and sharpeners to give to the children. I handed these out to children who didn’t have any resources and the children produced some excellent dragons. I gave out the flags kindly donated by the Dragons and books we had bought through the non-uniform fund raising money as prizes to children who were working really hard. It was very difficult to decide as they were all so amazing! As the children were finishing their dragons, the bell went for break and the children went outside to play for a short while.

We were treated to some pineapple and mango by Sam, the Headteacher, before returning to class for some more teaching. I started by showing the children some of the self portraits that Class 5 had done just before half term. They loved looking at our sketches and as we looked at each one I told the Ugandan children a little bit about the children in my class. The children in class then sketched their own faces onto paper and wrote some sentences on the back. It was interesting to see that they have many similar hobbies to the children in Class 5; singing, dancing, running and playing with friends!

Following our self-portraits we then began to do some maths. I had been waiting for this all morning! I got out the number stick Mr Mansfield and I had made the night before and began to count. The children loves using the stick to help them with their times tables and I was able to use lots of the activities we do in Class 5 which they really seemed to love. They then also enjoyed using the 100 square and times tables square that had been drawn onto hessian sacks. Time had flown by and there wasn’t much time for anything else before the bell went for lunch. We all left the classroom together for a group photo with the enormous Wales flag we had brought with us.

The children really were amazing. Considering there were 5 of them squashed onto most of the benches they were incredibly good at listening and joining in. They really seemed to love some of the more interactive activities and a few even said they wished that we didn’t have to stop for lunch! It was a fantastic experience and it was brilliant to see how the children responded to the lessons.

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The bell rang for lunch at 1:00pm and by this time, Mr Prewett and I were dripping with sweat and about to collapse, partly because of the heat and partly because of the amount of energy we were using in our classes. Sam invited us into his office to each lunch with him, which had been prepared for us by one of the school teachers. I always get nervous as the pots of food are brought out and placed in front of us, because you never know what will be under the lid! As the first lid came off, it was rice. In the second pot, there were Irish potatoes and in the third pot, there were chicken parts in a stew. Joseph, one of the schools coordinators over here, ate lunch with us. Mr Prewett and I put rice and potatoes on our plates before carefully searching through the stew for a suitable piece of chicken… before we could find one, Joseph snatched the serving spoon and started rummaging around inside the pot of stew. He then told us that there is a very important part of the chicken which must always be given to guests; the ‘Gizzard’! (Click here if you want to find out what a chicken gizzard is). He put it on Mr Prewett’s plate first, so I was delighted and thought I was off the hook. Mr Prewett ever so kindly insisted on sharing ‘the honour’ of eating the gizzard, with me. As Mr Prewett bit into it, my stomach turned. Then he passed it to me and all I was thinking was… ‘This could get messy…!’ I took a bite out of it and quickly reached for the water to wash it down. I don’t want to talk about it…

For dessert, we had fresh Mango. This was a welcomed treat to help cleanse our palettes from gizzard!

After lunch, we returned outside to sit in the sun. Having drunk a huge bottle of water, (to take away the taste of gizzard!) I needed to use the loo. This was my first experience of using the ‘Long drop’: basically a small outdoor cement building with a hole in the ground. Not the most pleasant experience; using a toilet as flies are buzzing around your legs near the hole with the most horrendous stench, ever! Nevertheless, it’s another experience to tick off the bucket list!

As we had been talking about the Welsh flag during the morning sessions, we gave a Welsh flag to the school. Immediately, Sam called a boy over, and told him to climb up the flag pole to hang the flag up. We thought he was joking but sure enough, the boy put the string in-between his teeth, and jumped as high as he could, onto the 20 foot flag-pole. He then continued to climb to the top, with ease. (We will upload the video asap). He hung the flag on the string and then we had some photos taken next to their new flag.

During the afternoon, Sam asked us if we would like to play some sport with the pupils. We had brought a toy basket-ball hoop and also a rugby ball which had been donated by the Gwent Dragons.

As I brought the basketball hoop out of my bag, children followed excitedly, desperate to have the first shot! I had to find a place to hang the hoop high enough for pupils to aim at. After looking around for some time, I decided that the best place would be on the branch of a nearby tree. I clipped it on and started to throw the ball at the hoop, to show the children what they needed to do. As I continued to throw the ball at the tree, many of the children looked worried and reluctant to throw the ball at the tree. Some had a shot, many many took a step back. I wondered why they didn’t want to get involved, as they all looked so excited when I first pulled out the hoop. Worried that they hadn’t understood what the aim of the game was, I proceeded to demonstrate again, throwing the ball at the hoop. It was then that they all started to shriek ‘Waspies, Waspies’. I had no idea what they were on about, until I looked up at the hoop and saw a swarm of wasps flying around. Trust me to hang a basketball hoop in front of a wasp’s nest… ooops!

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We started off with some simple throwing and catching games. Then we ordered the pupils in a line and practised throwing the ball along the line, each way. After, we sorted the children into two teams: Team Prewett and Team Mansfield. The children absolutely loved it and picked up the rules really quickly…all except for the ‘don’t pass forward’ rule. There were some excellent runners who would get the ball and immediately run straight down the wing to score a try.

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I struggled to keep up with them! They were so fit! Unfortunately, Mr Prewett’s team won, but it was all down to one girl on his team, named Winnie. Their team tactic was ‘get the ball to Winnie’ and then she would run ridiculously fast down the field, and ferociously charge at anyone who got in her way. If she was in Wales, she would be snapped up to play for the national team straight away! Both Mr Prewett and I were so impressed at how amazing she was. We presented her with a small rugby ball at the end of the match, for being the best player. She was absolutely delighted. 

As we finished the game of rugby, the minibus came to collect us to take us back. All the children and teachers gathered to wave goodbye to us as we drove off. On the way home, we stopped at the hardware stall in the market, to buy some more hessian bags. We also returned to the stationery shop that we visited yesterday, the buy some more supplies that we could give to the teachers to make resources for their classrooms, the same as the ones we had demonstrated.

We then had a swim at the Mount Elgon Hotel and I also had a pizza. It was absolutely delicious… and also gizzard-less! 

Tomorrow, we will visit all of the classes, to do a short lesson in each. Then, we have arranged a sports-day competition. P5 will take on P4 in a range of races and sports and the winning team will have a special prize! I won’t spoil the surprise but all I can say is… I can’t wait until tomorrow morning, when we collect it!!

Until then, I am absolutely shattered, so need to get to sleep.

Today was such an amazing experience. We will never forget some of the sights that we’ve seen and the experiences we’ve had over the past few days. 

Thank you so much to all those who are reading the blog and keeping up with our adventure. It’s great to be able to share what we’ve been doing and we enjoy seeing how many views each blog has had!

Nos da!

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