Makiro – an old school facing new challenges

In the third and final blog looking at the Volunteer Uganda partner schools over the next 3 months, we visit Makiro Primary School.

Makiro

As teachers, pupils and our volunteers peer out of the classroom windows at Makiro (Ma-chi-ro) Primary School they are greeted with an unrivalled view.

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Makiro sits on one of the highest points overlooking Kanungu town. The vista which comes with this exalted vantage point is a 360 degree feast for the eyes.

Despite every compass point offering something to steal attention away from the blackboard, Makiro prides itself on its record of achievement and the importance of education is as etched onto the minds of its students as the view is on visitors.

Unlike Kirima Parents, Makiro is a government school. Since its establishment in 1940 it has seen the birth of a centrally controlled education system, its development in the 1950s and 1960s, its downfall in the 1970s, and its subsequent struggle to recover.

Answering to the Ugandan Ministry of Education, teachers at Makiro now face up to the new challenge of providing quality education for the ever growing number of children born of Uganda’s demographic imbalance.

Almost 50% of Ugandans are under the age of 14. This puts significant pressure of the education system and that can be seen in microcosm on Makiro’s school roll.

Around 450 pupils attend classes. The number of qualified teachers to guide them through their primary education? 7. Seven. Every class has at least 50 pupils and some have as many as 80.

As someone who attended a primary school with a total of 42 pupils and 3 teachers this is hard to fathom.

Where as my experience may be a rarity, the size of Makiro’s classes are the norm for many government schools in Kanungu district.

This is where Volunteer Uganda comes in.

We place our volunteers, who have been trained in limited resources teaching by our team of education and community coordinators, into schools to supplement the teachers who are all too often exhausted or simply playing catch up with marking or lesson planning.
Class sizes are managed by pairing our volunteers, one acting as classroom assistant as the other leads the lesson.

The result is teachers get a break and pupils benefit from more one-to-one attention.

But it is not just the school that benefits. Laura and Dean, the current pair volunteering at Makiro, are both studying to become teachers. Their experience at Makiro, of handling class sizes double what they are in the UK, improves their classroom confidence and hones their teaching technique.

In short, by helping Makiro deal with its classroom challenges our volunteers are also helping themselves to further their own career in education.

You see, there is much more to volunteering at Makiro than first meets the eye.

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