getting through the ABCs

16 11 2011

Again, class attendance was very low today.  A heavy downpour about 45 minutes before class was due to begin did give me that premonition.  But I have a number of activities available so that we can still use the time productively. 

Sometimes if there are only a few on a Wednesday we use the time for more knitting or crafts.  Sometimes I will do a filler literacy task.  I have to be RFA (ready for anything) but I am not always as prepared as I would like to be.

I never know in advance who will be coming, so it is a fun guess to see just whose face appears around the dirty doorposts of the class.  Today I know that God was in control of who attended and I was glad for the time I had with the ladies today.

Mariam and Shina were the only ladies there, besides Sarah (my assistant, translator and wonderful supporter ) and me.  Shinah just needs a lot of love right now, and we got to pray for some of the things she is experiencing. And I could spend some time with Mariam. 

This is my bag of tricks for Mariam.  Mariam is about 23 years old.  Mariam cannot write her name without help.  Mariam is just one out of millions in the world who goes under the rather casual term of “illiterate’.

These are some statistics I found this evening on the Unicef website, for Uganda:

Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 66.8%
male: 76.8%
female: 57.7% (2002 census)

So officially about 67% of the adult population are functionally literate.  Mariam is part of the about 40% of female adults in Uganda who cannot read or write.  Apparently she did get to P3 (about 3rd grade) but that does not mean that she learned anything.

Here are some of the challenges I face:  Mariam is pregnant with her second child and is often ill, so she often misses class.  It is very difficult to keep a consistent learning programme with that kind of attendance.  We are working our way through the alphabet, letter by letter, and have only reached G. (I did do M, S and O with her before as well.)

There are not adult friendly tracing pages or activities to teach the letters. I spend a lot of time trawling through kindergarten websites to find information (I was also trained for teaching the high end of high school, not for teaching littlies how to read and write!) and I do my best to adapt those for an adult.  (The fun bit is that teaching capital B can be taught using words like boobies – see the two of them?? ^_^)

There are also so many ways to teach the alphabet with western / American ideas that African small-town people have never come across.  A is for armadillo and aeroplane.  Really?  How do you teach what an armadillo is? And I have never seen an aeroplane even flying over our town! I need to think of words that are relevant to the life experience of the ladies in the class. 

There are things to be grateful for: I am working on an alphabet chart in Lugisu, so that the words I teach are easier for someone here to learn.  I am not solely responsible for Mariam’s learning- she is a big girl, and there are times that she fills her book with pages and pages of letters: lots and lots of e, f, g filling up the pages.  We have a translator to help with language, Mariam laughs a lot as she learns.  She still struggles to put together the most  basic of words (I think she read the word egg the other day by herself) but when letters come to her more easily than in the beginning she feels so proud of herself.

The others in the class are quite supportive: I often have to leave them to work on a task so that I can teach Mariam alone.  They try to whisper the correct letter to her when Mariam struggles, and they are glad when she achieves a new skill.  I know that they get tired of it, but they help count her stitches over and over in knitting, because Mariam cannot count very far at all.

Do you realise how blessed you are that you can sit and read this?  That you are able to work out your money spent quickly in your head? That all the little things that have to do with numbers and letters are not just foreign squiggles on a page but meaningful constructs that can convey love, reason or sorrow?    The understanding of ABCs is a massive blessing-  we can count it even letter by letter.

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2 responses

16 11 2011
Louret

Oooooh I wish so I could come and help

17 11 2011
karenanddeon

I would LOVE to have you helping too! If ever you get bored in Gauteng (yeah, right!) come on over!

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