Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Little about St. Mary Kevin's

Although I have not yet moved into the orphanage, I have already begun doing some work there. Here's some background about SMK.

During the 1980s, Rosemary, now the executive director, saw the need to provide education for impoverished families and orphans. After opening the school, she also realized the necessity of providing the children with a home in which they may live. Although there are some students who have families and go home everynight, they are extremely few. Almost all of the students have lost at least one parents and live at SMK as their aunts or grandparents come to visit them Sundays. Yesterday I had the opportunity of meeting and hearing about many of the orphan's stories. Some experts follow:
  • Ivan's father died from a snake bite and his mother from a sickness. He has "now found home in St. Mary Kevin's"
  • Lillian is from the North where many LRA rebels kidnapp children and ravage villages. She and her siblings saw rebels capture her parents, cover them in paint thinner, and then set them on fire burning them to death.
  • Another orphan, also from the North, saw the LRA slaughter and chop uphis parents. He and his siblings hid in the bush, surviving off of berries for five days until the Ugandan government found them.
These are just a few examples of the many extreme cases at the orphanage of about 200 children. Although the LRA killed many of the other students' parents, many are also there as a result of disease.
The school aspect of the orphanage is organized quite differently from how we understand education. Because SMK has a very low income and struggles to pay for their expenses, none of the children have text books. At the beginning of the year, they receive notebooks in which they copy and finish the assignment the teachers write on the board. The teachers often will shortly explain the lesson, write their assignment on the board, and then leave the room for the day or the period. Furthermore, at the end of the year, the students take a national exam determining whether they may move on to the next level (the levels are divided as follows: Primary1, P2, P3, P4, P5, P6, P7). Thus, the teachers prepare their students purely for the exam. They are taught to memorize facts and simply regurgitate their answers on the national test. Consequently, when I ask a students, "What is matter?" they all can answer, in perfect unison, "Matter is something which occupies space and has weight." Or, "What is the area of this rectangle?" they respond admirably, "A= L x W" yet cannot apply that information half as quickly when unassisted as they can provide such formulas and definitions. Additionally, the lack of resources along with huge class sizes often inhibit the students' efforts to learn and the teachers' efforts to teach.

However, like most people, they are more than capable of thinking but have never learned how. Yesterday, I socractically taught from Genesis 1:1 on the eternity and certainty of God. I have explored the same concepts in the same way with many people in the States and the Ugandans were just as sharp and articulate when pushed to be so as anyone I have ever taught. I hope to teach the kids how to think and communicate effectively in all of my classes but especially in the Religious Studies and English classes.

Just as a reminder, these are the classes I will teach:
  • P5,P6 English
  • P5,P6 Religious Education
  • P5 Math
  • P5 Science
Tonight and for the weekend, I will be attending the TTWU staff retreat in a beautiful area about thirty minutes from where we are now. On Sunday, when we return, I will move into the orphanage and begin teaching all of my classes.

Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers! I AM SO PUMPED.

(Their "school bell" which prefects ring to indicate the beginning and end of class periods)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hEY! hope you're having fun. you're doing a great thing for those kids and they're lucky to have you! : ) -edwin