A year on – it’s just the beginning
A lot has happened in the past year at Tusome Africa, more than I could have imagined. We’ve grown in size, both in terms of staff and volunteers, and also in terms of the schools that we work with. I was delighted to have an opportunity to visit five schools in January to see some of the work that the team have been doing in Uganda within the past year. Despite the fact that it was the school holidays, the head teachers met me and talked me through the changes that Tusome is enabling on the ground and how this is supporting them to achieve very tough school improvement programmes.
John, the young boy I met in Uganda who I wrote about last year, was the turning point and is testament to why we do what we do at Tusome.
John’s bright future
Today John’s hopes and dreams are a world away from what they were when I first met him a year or so ago, selling fruit at a busy roadside in Uganda. John has made good progress; he can read and write, he’s in the second year of primary school and he’s enjoying learning.
I reconnected with him in September and he is a confident little boy who is doing well in school. I try to visit John once a year and I hope to see him in March.
John is a great reminder of my purpose with Tusome and I am humbled at how such a small gesture (contributing a relatively small amount to fund his schooling each term) means so much to him and his family.
Meeting John was the turning point to me establishing Tusome. The formation of the idea started many years ago. What made it so vivid with John was that I didn’t know him, wasn’t connected to him. But there are many Johns out there, I can’t just stand by and do nothing. About 80% of all children in Uganda who start out in primary school do not transition to secondary school. Most will leave primary school having failed to become functionally literate or numerate. We can change this.
Bringing resources, building hope
Tusome now works with 10 schools in the Iganga region and in the past year we’ve provided over 3,000 books to schools and created five reading spaces/ libraries in five schools. Our work hasn’t gone unnoticed. I spoke with the District Education Officer (DEO) in January and he is so pleased with the progress that Tusome has made that he is going to make a recommendation for us to be recognised as one of the lay partners of the district and to be included in the district’s education planning sessions. This is significant as it means we would be consulted whenever there are changes to education strategy. A large part of what we do is working with schools and teachers and changing mindsets so that abilities and creative attributes beyond mainstream subjects can be recognised and nurtured.
It’s also about providing much-needed resources. For example, we gave 3D shapes to schools for use in maths lessons and the head teacher of Bunalwenyi school expressed his gratitude because it gives critical material which would ordinarily never be prioritised within schools.
This is all the more important in the region where we work, which often sees itself as intellectually inferior. Iganga is one of the poorest and most remote regions in the country. Tusome is about instilling hope and confidence. How can you exist without hope? Hope gives us purpose and a sense of direction.
The year ahead
I am very excited about the prospects of Tusome and the impact that this young organisation has already accomplished on the ground.
I would like Tusome to secure multi-year funding so that it can expand on the great work achieved so far as well as securing its position in Iganga.
I believe that assessments are the key to improving standards because they provide teachers, parents and pupils with evidence of performance. I would like Tusome to pioneer voluntary school assessments programmes this year, which enables schools to have a report card at school level and incorporates teaching results and pupil results.