Tom Herriman's Journal
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News and Views
Iganga, classes and a business plan
A Trip to Iganga

Privatization of education appears to be a prominent government goal. I visited Rachel Magoola at her school in Iganga, about 40 miles north of Kampala over the weekend. The school is called Menya Ziabamuzali Primary school. They have about 160 boarding students on a lovely campus in a rural area. Lots of space, trees, grass. The privately owned school is establishing its own private teacher training college...the second or third in the nation. They’ll recruit secondary school grads and train them in the months while school is on break, and when the primary school is in session they’ll do their student teaching right there. MZPS got a bank loan and I ‘m guessing government support to start the training college. They’re building new dormitories and classrooms for the college which will open next year.

I was invited to come to MZPS for the P-7 farewell ceremony. The p-7’s had finished all their course work and were getting ready for national exams that would decide which secondary school…a big career determiner…they would be going to. I went up on Friday in the Post Bus that left from the main post office. The trip took four hours on one of the most battered and heavily under construction roads I’ve ever seen. It was stop and go all the way, dust and diesel exhaust. Friday night Rachel and I walked through Iganga on the busy main street and sat until late in the evening hotel drinking cokes (me) and Guinness (Rachel,) and watched the bustling nightlife from a hotel veranda.
The farewell ceremony the next day was interminable, but the graduates took it all in good humor and spirits were very high. We drove back to Kampala the next day in Rachel’s car and stopped so I could see the source if the Nile at Jinja. Jinja is a beautiful little town right where the Nile flows out of Lake Victoria. They have tour boats and concessions and along the road you can see some of the elegant old homes of the British colonialists.

A Business Plan

Monday night I helped Olivia, one of the university students at Kisa, with her business plan. She’s entering a contest and was looking for ideas, so I suggested an advertising agency to place display ads on the 10,000 minivan-taxis the clog the streets of Kampala 24 hours a day and are really the only reliable way of getting around except for the motorbike taxis that require a degree of faith and fatalism I have not been able to muster.
Olivia embraced my idea, and together we worked out a skeletal plan envisioning huge profits for the agency after 5 years. I tried to think of an enterprise that would combine saving the world with making money, but couldn’t come up with one. Maybe I’m just infected with the scrambling free-for-all business atmosphere here. I helped her with editing and showed her how to make a simple spread sheet. She turned in her proposal today.

My P4 and P5 Classes

I have a P4 class with over 50 students and a P5 class with about 33 students. Guess which one I like better. In P5, I feel I’ve been able at some point to engage the attention of every child. In P4, there are vast rows of desks in the back of the room where the students scarcely know I’m standing up in front. The P5’s are good participators; and volunteer for reciting and performing, though I unintentionally reduced one little boy to tears trying him to get his chin up and his voice audible as we went through a little public speaking exercise this morning. In P4, getting some of the kids to stand up and speak audibly was like trying to pull rusty nails with a salad fork. Especially the girls. These gigantic 12 and 13 years old speak in almost inaudible whispers, with their chins tucked way down in their chests, their hands covering their mouths... edging back to their seats the whole time.

In P5, we’re going to put on a play that Rachel wrote and gave me a copy of. It’s a nice little 15 minute 3 scene deal about a girl running away from home. The P4’s, I think I’ll keep teaching the songs…they like it and at least almost everybody participates at a minimal level. I just taught them Dark as a Dungeon by Merle Travis. Before starting the song itself, I passed out the words and we had a discussion of some of the unfamiliar words…dungeon, dew, labor, fellows, coal, mine, miner, fiend, dope, lust, are a few they didn’t know; and on the possible meaning of the song. That took almost a whole hour.

So I hope at the end of the term, The P5’s can put on their play and the P4’s can put on a musical program that will include Dark as Dungeon, Mill Was Made of Marble, Mail Myself to You, If I had a hammer.