Part 3 of our series of blog posts from our online exhibition highlighting the impact of mindfulness training in schools in Lira, Northern Uganda. With our support, our partner St Francis Family Helper Programme, an NGO based in Uganda, have carried out a pilot project where mindfulness training was provided for Teachers, Parents and Pupils in schools in the area. VC Staff travelled to the project to see how it’s impact has been felt. While visiting, they spoke to teachers, pupils and parents who believe that this project has transformed their lives. The result of these conversations is a series of stories that we would like to share with you.
All children love to be in school
Patrick Olwit Ogwawe, the Senior District inspector of schools (DIS) in Lira, Local department of Local Government (LDLG) narrates his experience with the positive discipline in schools project in Northern Uganda.
The training that has been taking place in Lira district in partnership with Viatores Christi (VC) has been very good and timely. It has helped change the manner in which the teachers handle the pupils. It has also helped the children change their behaviour. Generally, it has improved the welfare of the teachers, the pupils and the parents thereby bridged the gap that previously existed.
Before the training, the school system was in a haphazard manner, where teachers managed the pupils mechanically. The teachers did not really understand their actions, nor the behaviour of the pupils. The pupils have now realised how to go about their day-to-day activities with the teachers now considering that the pupils are acting innocently, as you know children always want to do things their way. It was incumbent on the teachers to use the professional methods given to them to manage the children. But that gap was there. Either they didn’t take on the training before, or it was ignored, but this training acted as a reminder and has shaped their way of understanding.
‘Now, things are different’
Before the training, the teachers treated the children recklessly, they abused the children for any wrong thing they had done, spanking them in such a way that it was tantamount to brutality and this did not go well with me as a manager of the education process. I didn’t like it and I didn’t enjoy working in such an environment. With the positive discipline training in school, things are now different. In the pilot schools where we had the teachers trained, things are quite different. We have piloted this in just five schools, but you can notice a remarkable change in the schools where the project is taking place, compared to those which did not participate in the training.
‘I am happy. So many things are improving – gradually, but consistently’
The greatest impact is that all children love to be in school. Previously, because of being managed differently, or roughly, quite a lot of children would run away from school, or feared going to school. That was not good. And some teachers, also, because they did not understand, thought their actions were justified.
‘After the training, self-realisation was achieved’
Each of the project schools had 5-600 children. All project schools have had enrolment step up greatly. An increment of more than 100 children have come into the school system. That is a good impact. So, in all the 5 schools, we have had more than 500 children come back to school. If we can apply this to all 93 schools, then we would have close to 10,000 children who would have got lost. I think this is a tremendous achievement.
I feel proud of the project schools, for what we have achieved so far. For me it gives me a green light that a lot could be done. There is friendship achieved between the children and the teachers and so teaching and learning is now taking pace ethically and professionally, for that matter, not forcing learning to take place as it was before. The children themselves have also reshaped how they look at things.
An example is in Burlobo rock view Primary School, I once went there to carry out a normal school inspection and I had to take time off, 2 hrs, to have a meeting with the teachers, but the manner in which the children took responsibility for themselves was amazing. They managed to run their normal affairs, without the teachers but self-study, very effectively and no teacher instructed them. The leaders stepped in the position of the teachers and the rest supported what they were doing and I realised there was total silence within the classrooms. When breaktime came, the bell sounded and they came out very peacefully, without the supervision of a teacher. To me that is a very big achievement.
If you compare this with another school not in the project, it is a totally different thing. Actually, it would mean we would close the school for 2 hours and they would have walked back home. The teachers themselves would normally take French leave for an hour after such a meeting, but they went straight back to the normal school programme. During the meeting, the teachers were also quite mature about the way in which they presented their issues. There was a situation that presented a conflict. Two teachers were neglecting and ignoring their teaching roles, but the other teachers came in to have a talk with them. Those two teachers were getting lost, but those teachers that had gone through the training gave them a new dimension. The two teachers had not done training but after they did so they became the best. One of them is now beginning a family and the training he received is also helping with that situation.
I feel happy about VC’s involvement in this training. I am very grateful to VC for coming in to bridge this gap, because this is something that has been neglected over time. I very much hope that we can move forward together to expand this programme to all the schools and the children benefit then I can assure you that we will have quality schools over time, and we will change quite a lot of young people’s lives that would otherwise have been wasted.
For more stories on the impact of mindfulness training for Teachers, Parents and Pupils in schools in Lira, Northern Uganda check out our [link] online exhibition
This project, like many of the other projects that we work on, is supported by the work of volunteers. Are you interested in volunteering with projects like St Francis Family Helper Programme? If so, please learn more about how to become a volunteer by following this link.