Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gender Equity

Gender roles in Ugandan society are firmly set in tradition, for the most part.  That is why I was surprised last week to see our Kibaale primary school girls playing ‘football’ (soccer) instead of their traditional game of netball. 

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It was even more surprising to see the boys watching and cheering as if they were at a World Cup match!


Then as I was observing in the nursery classes, it was interesting to see boys enjoying playing with some of the dolls and other items that are usually associated with girls only. In the process, they were developing language and creative play skills. 

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The most rewarding thing, however, is to see the confidence that the girls are developing in their own abilities to learn.  The common tendency for teachers to expect less of the girls academically is gradually diminishing, and the girls are becoming active participants in class discussions and activities. 

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fire, bees and prayer

Yesterday morning we noticed a lot of smoke in the distance, which is common here during the dry season when many people set grass fires to clear bush.  They can get dangerously out of control, however, especially on windy days.

visit from monks, pond, fire July 2010 005As the day went on and the smoke came nearer our Timothy Centre property, we checked to see if any of our new school buildings were in danger.  Fortunately the fire was staying in the wetland area (which was not very wet, obviously!) and moving slowly.

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It came steadily in our direction all day, and we could hear the crackling flames as they consumed large areas of vegetation in the wetland.

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By nightfall we could see that it was still advancing and was showing no signs of dying out.  It was like a fireworks display on the horizon and we kept an eye on it from our houses.

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fire 021  Around 8:00 p.m. were started to get concerned about the apiary on site here, as the hives are in the lower wetland section of the property.  We had just organized a week of beekeeping training for the community (first week of July) and had invested a lot of work to get this project off the ground. 

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The first comb of honey was collected during the training sessions and other hives were also very promising. 

Haven and Jinja 010It was time to pray and call others to pray with us! If the bees smelled the smoke, they would abscond and we would have to begin again from scratch.  If the hives burned, we would have that loss as well. We asked God to protect the project and the crops and houses of the local neighbours around us.  As the fire spread onto our property we prayed and waited.  After burning out of control for 10 hours, it waned and began to sputter, flared up a couple of times, and slowly burned out within 100 metres of our housing around 10:00 p.m.  When Karl checked the bees this morning and all was well!

We are grateful to God for answering prayer.  It is our lifeline, and we are grateful for the prayers of many of you  who care about the work God is doing here.

And speaking of is always encouraging to see the students in our school in Kibaale also learn to depend on God through prayer.  Their childlike trust is refreshing to see, and inspires us to trust as well.

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Friday, July 23, 2010



We often take for granted the blessing of being taught to read in our “mother tongue”, having a strong understanding of the oral language before learning how to read.  Can you imagine being taught to read for the first time in a foreign language? 




It was not until 2007 that children in Uganda first had opportunity to learn to read in the language they were most familiar with from home.  Kibaale Community Primary School was fortunate to be given permission to pilot the government’s new primary thematic curriculum which emphasises, among other things,  the use of the children’s mother tongue as the medium of instruction for the first 3 years of school (Primary 1 –3).  As we have introduced this approach in our school, we have seen a huge improvement in the children’s attitudes to learning, behaviour, and reading/writing.  Reading now makes sense!


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Madrasa and Kibaale Nursery 218 The nursery and kindergarten children have developed a keen interest in books and are being prepared for more formal literacy instruction once they begin Primary 1.Madrasa and Kibaale Nursery 272

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July 2010 beekeeping and KCPS 301 It was challenging to convince teachers that this approach would actually work, and that children would benefit from learning to read in Luganda (the most common local language in our school community) before learning to read in English in later primary classes.

Teachers were also required to make nearly all of their own teaching aids, including class big books, charts, games, etc. in Luganda –- a big job!  Now there are some basic teaching materials and books available to purchase, but many materials still need to be made by the teachers themselves.  They have seen the dramatic improvement in the children’s learning so are motivated to do this extra work now.

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Monday, July 19, 2010


One of the goals of Kibaale Community Schools is to lift the status of our vocational skills program in the eyes of the students, parents/guardians and community.  The common perception here is that vocational training programs are for students who are ‘failures’ in school.  Over the years it has been a challenge to persuade students who finish in our primary school to consider taking the vocational route in our Kibaale Community Vocational Training Centre.  Yet many students have the aptitude for hands-on work such as tailoring, carpentry and baking/cooking and can earn a living with these skills to support themselves and their families.  We try to help the students understand the real meaning of ‘vocation’ (calling from God.)

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Our teachers are committed to helping these students, and they work hard to build relationships with them and provide Christian discipleship training through daily Bible teaching times and personal mentoring.  They encourage students to understand that they have been blessed with abilities in practical sills that can be used for God’s service and to bless others, just as many men and women were “filled with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship” (Exodus 35:31) in the building of the Old Testament tabernacle.


Many of our primary school students enter school when they are older than 6 years of age and miss whole school terms or years because of family issues, ill health, learning problems, etc.  Sometimes by the time they are ready to begin secondary school they are 16 or 17 years old and it is a long road ahead before they can complete secondary school and go on for further career training.  We also enrol students from the surrounding community who have not even finish primary school for one reason or another.

IMG_2713 The 2-year vocational training program is a very good option for these students, especially since we connected with the Directorate for Industrial Training office in Kampala last year and arranged for external examiners to come to the school in November and evaluate students in theory and practical skills.  Students who passed these examinations were awarded government certificates that open doors for employment and further training.

IMG_2724 We offer three courses at the moment: tailoring, carpentry, and catering and hotel management.  Next year we hope to reinstate the brick laying and construction course that was offered a few years ago.

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This year we hired an English instructor to help the vocational students improve their oral and written English.  Most of these students find the theory exams very challenging because they are written in English, their second language.  Improved English skills help them as they enter the world of work as well.

One of our former vocational students has been working for a few years now as the right hand man to our site manager at Kibaale Community Centre.  He is an inspiration to our students, and is a trusted worker who has blessed us all!


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Beauty and Rest

We have just returned to the Timothy Centre after a refreshing time away  (and some work at the agricultural show that Karl will talk about in another blog).  We spent two very relaxing days at a place called The Haven River Lodge right on the Nile River north of the town of Jinja.  It was a very welcome time of rest after several very busy weeks -- the beauty of the area was calming and restoring. 

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This was the breath-taking view from the window of our room.  It was great to fall asleep to the sound of the rapids!

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We then spent a couple of days just outside of Jinja, where the agricultural show was held.  The place where we stayed had amazing  gardens displaying the beauty of many flowers and flowering bushes that flourish here in Uganda.

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