Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rescue in time of need

by Thomas Bwire

It’s just past 5pm and I decided to pay a visit Uweza's tuition center, where primary school children from different programs go for extra evening tutorial classes. Upon my arrival, I get to visit one of the three classes in session with teacher Isaiah Apondi, who teaches students in classes 4, 5, and 6.  Students in classes 1-3 and 7-8 are in different classrooms.  This class is full with pupils all sitting attentively as they listen to the teacher. Some wore their school uniform, while others wore home clothes. The on-going teachers strike has taken a toll on the school schedule, since no classes have taken place from last week as teachers demand a pay rise before going back to class. (See recent Uweza blog post on the strike here).

Students in Classes 4, 5, and 6 eagerly participating in the day's lesson
All the children from public schools have now been forced to stay at home and instead seek alternative ways of keeping on track on their academic progress. I was lucky to work hand in hand with one of the journalism members and high school student Jennipher Awour, who interviewed one of the pupils as part of a learning experience in learning interview skills. She was forced to come back home from her boarding school three days after she reported due to the on-going teachers strike.

Caroline Kibiego, a class five pupil from Raila Educational Centre, says she cannot miss evening classes at the center, since no learning is taking place at their school. “Here the teacher has been able to assist me in subjects like Mathematics, Social Studies, English, Science and Kiswahili” notes Caroline.

Thomas Bwire surveys the packed classroom
While for Erick Omwega, also a class five pupil at Ayany Primary School, his sentiments are somehow strong and the on-going teachers strike is not a good sign for him. All he can say is that, “I would like the government to engage our teachers so that we can go back to school soon. At the moment, I am happy that Uweza tuition program is still on and has motivated many of us in revising our school work,” notes Erick with a smile at the end.

Journalism Club member Jenipher Awuor interviews Class 5 student Erick Omwega
An interview with Uweza teacher Isaiah Apondi reveals that the number of children attending their evening classes has tripled and this has now forced them to engage more in revision of past exam papers. “The strike has surely affected many children and the number of children coming here keeps increasing day by day,” says teacher Isaiah. 

The bigger challenge now is whether the government will engage teachers in a dialogue to avert the strike or pupils will still be forced to read on their own as end year national exams for candidates, scheduled to occur in November, approach.  The day could not end before pupils asked to take a group photo with their teacher, perhaps to remind them of the memories of their sessions and bonding while their teachers on still on strike.
Teacher Isaiah with his class                

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