THE atmosphere is reminiscent of a classroom. A teacher is giving instructions and attentive students are eagerly contributing to the discussion. The excitement on the participantsâ€™ faces reflects the beauty of the activity.
The setting is Kyabazinga College, the students are 21 headteachers from Kamuli District, the tutors are The New Visionâ€™s Newspapers in Education (NIE) team, Emmanuel Ngerageze and Jamesa Wagwau. The topic is â€˜how to use newspapers in classâ€™.
Ngerageze organises the headteachers into seven groups. Each group is given copies of The New Vision, glue, flip-charts and a pair of scissors.
He instructs them to cut photographs from the newspaper and paste them on flip charts. The photographs are divided into two categories â€“ â€˜NEEDSâ€™ and â€˜WANTSâ€™. This categorisation excites the learners.
Although all groups place a car under the wants category, there are interesting contradictions.
For instance, a photograph of a pregnant woman is placed under both categories. Some claim that sex and the outcome of pregnancy is a want and not a need.
Wagwau notes that the kind of debate arising from the demonstration work is healthy for learning. â€œThis is the only way we shall eradicate the situation where students are trained to read only to pass examinations.
Teachers must, therefore, become faithful readers so as to change their students,â€ he says.
He poses a challenge to schools to encourage extensive reading through daily exposure to reading materials. â€œThe time has come to help children acquire a culture of reading.
Textbooks are expensive and bulky which scares off many students yet The New Vision is out daily at only sh1,000. The newspaper is the cheapest textbook as it has a lot of information at an affordable cost,â€ Wagwau says.
In support of Wagwau, Francis Kaleebi, the director of Kyabazinga College, says he uses old newspapers as teaching aids. But after the NIE demonstration, he will boost his newspaper usage skills in class.
According to Ngerageze, â€œStudents are fed up of the yellow notes carried by some teachers who never update them. These are youngsters of the computer age exposed to new developments that may contrast with old information in the teacherâ€™s notebook.â€
â€œNIE is an exciting teaching aid because newspapers simulate the real world in the classroom by naming people, places and events which learners are familiar with.
The students, therefore, identify with it and easily read through without feeling that they are being forced to read,â€ he adds.
â€œNIE is not a diversion from traditional teaching techniques. It is simply a way of spicing up the old with new approaches,â€ Ngerageze says.
Newspapers carry something of interest to everyone like sports, fashion, news, lifestyle and so can appeal to any learner.
Therefore, schools nationwide should jump onto the NIE bandwagon so that both teachers and learners benefit.
â€œInternational research has shown that learners who use newspapers as a principal source of material have better scores than their counterparts who rely on textbooks only,â€ Ngerageze says.
He refers to a three-year study of NIE in Volusia County, Florida, which established that students who read newspapers show superior vocabulary skills and enhanced understanding of social issues as compared to their counterparts who do not use newspapers.
â€œIn another six-week newspaper reading programme with 13-year-old American students, two-thirds of the 743 students with reading problems had their performance improve by more than a grade,â€ he adds.
Ngerageze says for the same to happen in Uganda, schools should get training on how to use newspapers in class and increase student access to newspapers. â€œWe conduct workshops where we train the teachers on how to use the newspaper in the classroom.
This co-funded arrangement by the school and The New Vision enables teachers to go back and educate their peers.â€
â€œAmong the benefits of NIE membership is access to international newspaper associations and annual awards. Participating schools would have a school coordinator to effect the link,â€ Ngerageze adds.
To participate in the programme or to subscribe for New Vision copies please contact the NIE manager Emmanuel Ngeregeze on email@example.com or Geresome Agaba, the circulation maneger on gagaba2newvision.co.ug.
New Vision simplifies classroom teaching