Lost in translation

Today it was perhaps more of a reminder of how important learning this language is. English is the secondary language for most Ugandans and when uneducated it is in fact foreign. Our education system is poor and when you throw in the government “funded” ones it’s even worse. You would never fully understand what I mean when I say poor unless you see it firsthand. Overcrowding, unruly, overlooked, under taught, ill equipped, and broken down. I am not bashing the teachers, I am amazed at some of them, the fact they can teach anything in the environment that they are given is remarkable at best.

Today was another crazy day where the kids were playing games instead of learning in school. They have these “field days” you know the ones that normally happen in America at the end of the year when all the learning for the year is over. These ones interrupt the school day and a bunch of government schools compete with each other. At times I think more importance is on sports than on actual learning. So today became a bit overwhelming as the number of roaming kids was in the hundreds and most don’t know what our ministry does since they are from schools far away. So when you are the “white” people there is a lot of staring and not a lot of understanding of what is going on. I had my normal crew of third graders who don’t understand 80% of what I say. I use the curriculum that they are supposed to be learning and there are about 3 out of 10 that seem to “get it”. I do wonder what they learn in class and I may just pop in sometime to listen.

The concept today for most was how to use our library (our bookshelf). I explained how it’s organized by skill level and how to treat our books to keep them nice. I was trying to see where kids were at with their reading levels by giving them an assignment. Summarize. I defined it, using the dictionary definition, I defined it by reading a short story and giving the example of what a summary was. I explained it several different ways, several different times. When I got the work back, zero got the concept of what a summary was. Instead I got papers that wrote sentences directly from the book. I kept the papers with the book titles and their names and if they show up again then I will try again.

It was a unique day as usually I have a translator to fill in the gaps of what they understand. Today though no staff to translate, thus my American accent most likely hindered what I said. I am hoping that these kids ranging from 3rd grade to 7th grade for one come back, two understood some of it, three when explained the next time they will “get it” and be a better reader for it. However, I know that for most it is a new concept because I remember when we first started our library in 2009 it was hard to get kids to just read and comprehend. Reading is not something frequently done until the later years in school, which is a crazy concept. I am thankful that my kids love books, and are learning the foundations of how to read early. I am also very excited for our shipment to come because the amount of books we have is huge in comparison to what our selection is now.

Today for some it could be discouraging but for me it’s just another challenge, and I know that with God I can make a difference in these kids’ lives. I am also excited to take my Luganda classes and hope that I will then be able to speak without translation.

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