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Seeing the bigger picture

By Lizza Kawooya

We are on the road to Mityana district to one of our monthly highlights, the Malwa Umea Community Reading Day. This time, we are going to read and engage with the community of Kakindu, Malwa UMEA Primary School. We arrive at around 9am and find the children at the school already gathered. They are eager to see what we have in stock for them.

This community reading day was like no other. It was brilliant to see that the boys were more than the girls and also, that it comprised of the highest number of male parents than the any other Community Reading Day we have had.

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Following the day’s program, we kicked off with the introductions of our partners from the Rotaract Club of Kampala North and Malwa UMEA Primary School as well as our enjuba team members. We then went into breakout sessions to start the reading activities with the children and parenting talk with the parents. A team of 3 each handled a specific reading break out session and one of us conducted the parenting talk.  

One of the sessions was a game of Bingo where each child was given a cardboard with several letters written on top and some bottle tops. The children were supposed to listen to the instructor sound letters and then cover the letters sounded on their boards with a bottle top. Whoever covers the most letters faster wins. As we were conducting the Bingo game, I noticed a very stubborn fellow –Najib, a 10-year-old in primary four. He was very active during the session, made the class jokes and gave the funny answers.One of the biggest motivations for all the children to participate in the game were the sweets. 

However, Najib took it a notch higher. To every question, he put his hand up regardless of him knowing the answer. Majority of the times I picked on him, but all he said was, "Teacher, madam, ah the answer has gone!" or he would repeat an answer that another pupil had already mentioned just to get as many sweets as he could. 

When we finished the bingo session, I asked the teacher in charge to allow me to take Najib out of the classroom and have a conversation with him. As we walked around the well-cut grass compound of the school, Najib and I had an interesting dialogue where he shared with me about his family background and dreams. As we continued to talk, I asked him what he would love to do when he completes school. Najib answered and said, “when I complete school, I will go dig and rear animals.” Out of my curiosity, I went ahead to ask about the last class a person takes when they have completed school.  He quickly answered and said,” primary seven”. I continued to ask, "and secondary school?" Then he answered and said, “according me, my studying stops in primary 7, for secondary school, I am not sure but if others want to continue to secondary school, they can.” 

Realizing that at an early age, Najib did not see the benefits of completing school, I went ahead to share with them with him and how important education is.   And after our interesting conversation, I could see a spark of hope restored in Najib about what the future holds with advancing education because the little boy came back to ask when enjuba would be coming back to their school and that he would like us to come back. Najib is one of the many children whose environments’ teach them that advancing education is not important. However, our community reading approach gives hope to these children that reading and education can make their dreams valid and help them see the bigger picture.

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