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Kalongor's Journey to the National Championship!

By Pheona Nakishero

If you have ever sat for a Geography class in Uganda, and drawn the map of the beautiful pearl of Africa, you know that there is a sharp-tip at the top right corner that has to be there for the map to make sense and be considered a true representation of the country.

That tip is the district of Kaabong in the Karamoja sub-region. It's a place that not many people have been to. It takes almost 10 hours to get there, and over 600-kilometers from Kampala on the bumpiest road you will ever know.

According to Schooling Uganda, Kaabong has about 53 primary schools and its population has been estimated at over 1.2 million people. Statistics from the Uganda National Examination Board show that only 5.7 percent of children who did Primary Leaving Examinationsin 2016 got first-grade results.

In 2017, Fardosa Ahmed - Kaabong District Youth Councilor reached out to enjuba Spelling Bee to take the competitions to her region. She was certain that it would be beneficial for their children. That year we witnessed children grapple with words that are common to their everyday life and school environment. With much concern, we asked the district to identify two schools that were in desperate need of reading material and enjuba embarked on a Book Giving campaign to get books and take them to Kaabong.

The goal of the Book Giving Campaign was to provide reading material to the children and to read with them so that they understand that reading regularly is both fun and essential, it could transform their learning experience. Stephen Krashen- the author of The Modern Language Journal provides evidence to support this claim, "The best hypothesis is that competence in spelling and vocabulary is most efficiently attained by comprehensive input in the form of reading."

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In March 2018, the enjuba team traveled with over 300 books that were collected and spent a day reading with children at Kalongor Primary School and Komukuny Girls Primary School. Teachers confirmed that there was a desire to read but the children lacked the materials. The reading activity was very engaging for the children. "It made them love books and reading. They will continue reading, gain the confidence to stay in school and pass their exams." Fardosa Ahmed commented.

On 7th July 2019, we held the 3rd annual Kaabong District Spelling Bee at Pope John Paul II Memorial College in Kaabong, the highlight of the day was that the team from Kalongor Primary School spelled all their words correctly and won! They were ecstatic as they fist-pumped among themselves and celebrated their excellent teamwork. Last year their team was eliminated early in the competition.

Their teachers Loduk Phillips and Chiyo Dominic Savio said that they went back determined after the enjuba teacher training and trained the children. Kalongor Primary School has a total of 1009 children. The Observer ranked the school number 6601 out of 12700 schools in a 2017 Primary Leaving Examinations Ranking.

Teacher Loduk Phillips is currently studying a bachelor's degree in English and Social Studies from St. Lawrence University. He said, “This year we did things a little differently, the children have been reading and we encouraged them to write articles and present them at the school assembly. We also got the children to read in church more often to gain confidence."

"Kalongor Primary school is from the remote rural area but we won some town schools so the district is shocked." He continued. He is positive that they will excel at the National Spelling Bee on 12th October 2019 at the Kampala Serena Hotel.