There are four big organizations here in the capital of Kampala that are in someway related to my work. In a certain sense the most important is The Meeting Point International, which was started by a woman named Rose for women in the slums — to put it very simply. These women then asked for schools for their children and so began the Luigi Giussani Pre-Primary and Primary School, as well as the Luigi Giussani High School. Out of a desire to contribute to the education and professional development of Ugandan teachers, the Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education (LGIHE) was born. And the last crucial organization is AVSI, which supports the first three, in one-way or another.
My “home-base” for work is LGIHE. The institute has taken on the incredible task of aiming to instruct and provide professional development, which will improve the quality of education in Uganda. In everything they do they focus on conveying the infinite value of every person. They do this through diploma and certificate programs for teachers and administrators, as well as, workshops for the teachers of the schools they oversee. From what I have seen at LGIHE and the schools, by helping teachers discover their self-worth they are then able to convey this message to their students, thus changing the school environment.
When I am at LGIHE, I work with their team on finalizing curriculum. I also help with the research of the institute, which right now is focused on understanding how best to teach literacy to the students of the two schools. I am also working on a personally developed research project, which will investigate the mission of these schools and how this changes the way their teachers teach. This is incredibly important for me, as I prepare to teach in September. I am interviewing and observing the teachers and already I have seen that these schools are unlike any other in Uganda. Through this research, I am trying to understand why they are so different.
Even though my work is focused on the teachers and schools, it is impossible to disconnect that from the other organizations — particularly Meeting Point. My next post will try to express how incredible Auntie Rose and her women are.
I wanted to come to Uganda to understand teaching from the perspective of LGIHE (Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education), but I had barely been here for two days before I realized that six weeks would not begin to scrape the surface of what life in Uganda is, and therefore what the work of LGIHE is a response to.
But I am here and my short “journey” has begun, so that’s my starting point. It is not and will not be anything I expected, but I think because of that fact it will be even more beautiful. So far, I have learned much more about how to live then how to teach.
They call me Mzungu, which officially means foreigner (but really just “white person”) and this may seem like a small detail, but when the babies run to me to touch my skin and hug me to see if I am like them, I realize that being the “other” in many ways defines my life here. First of all, that experience with the kids happens all the time and I don’t feel sad, because I am different — I know I am very different! — I feel loved because they have acknowledged how different I am and take care of me who knows nothing about their world.
And I mean really nothing… I can’t buy lunch from the stalls on the streets alone, because I would not know the food or the prices; I can’t walk anywhere alone, because it isn’t safe when I don’t know the way; I can’t speak their mother tongues and I don’t know where to buy a mousetrap for our new roommate. But I have been helped with all of these things! Not once have I not had someone to turn to.
My life here is a series of moments where I am in awe of how incapable I am. Right now that can be really frustrating, but I hope I can have the conviction of Therese of Lisieux, that in being like a child in front of life and in front of Jesus, begging for help will teach me something more valuable than the comforts and independence of a summer at home.
A recent grad from Boston College, I will be spending the next two months in Uganda seeing my studies of education, psychology and human development in action. I am lucky enough to be volunteering with and learning from the community of educators at the Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education (LGIHE). My days will consist of everything from classroom observation to educational research to exploring the culture of Uganda (and Kenya for a brief visit!). I would love for you to follow along for what I am sure will be a crazy beautiful summer!