Today we spent an exciting play filled day at Sure Prospects Institute. Sure Prospects is a school for both children with special needs and those with out special needs. After an hour on the bus we were split up into four teams to cheer on the students during the game day. We walked out on to the field and were greeted by cheers and smiles. The children, ranging from preschool to their last year of primary school, were watching and taking part in the games (relay race activities). It was interesting to see that many of the children were given spoonfuls of sugar during the games. Once we finished the games and giving the children many hugs and pictures we headed back to the school. Many of us sang songs (head shoulders knees and toes, and the hokey pokey) with the kids and danced.
Our group was lucky to meet the head master Francis and find out more about the school. The school has 320 students and 32 teachers. The average class size was 25 students with the exception of P1which had 50 students! I don’t know about you guys but I cant imagine being in a first grade class of 50 students. Another fact that Francis shared with us was the ratio of students with out disabilities to those with disabilities was 3 to 1. The students have a range of different disabilities from autism to learning disabilities to physical handicaps. However, teaching a variety of children is not seen as a challenge at this school but an opportunity to help teachers and students alike grow. Francis spoke of many of the children acting as supports for their fellow classmates. The school unites every student. This “buddy system” benefits all of the children. Have you seen anything like this in American schools? The school also provides additional support for all students. The motto of the school is to teach to the individual not the classes. Thus there are one on one aids available, specialized classes, and other accommodations available. Francis talked about having teachers sit in on other teacher’s classes to help evaluate and supervise each other.
Lastly, Francis talked about the challenges the school and teachers face. The school depends on donations and selling crops as sources of funding. Also receiving accommodations for students with special needs to take their exams to leave primary schools has been a struggle. Francis hopes to work with the Uganda National Institution Board to create a certificate of merit for students who can’t test in “traditional ways”. Discrimination towards children and workers who have disabilities has been a struggle for the students and the school.
Overall today was an eye opening day. I know many of us wanted to take the students home! Given the challenges and successes of Sure Prospects do you think this school can contribute to sustainable development? Was there any moments or aspects that surprised you at the school? How does this school program compare to your schooling and experiences with special education programs at your elementary school? Lastly, what is your thoughts regarding discrimination against those with special needs in Uganda versus the United States?