“The moment any girl disappears we follow her up. We do not encourage the transfer of the girls unless the headteacher authorises."
PIC: Josephine Anena showing pupils how to wash hands
TEACHERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Every Wednesday and Thursday New Vision is profiling some of Uganda’s Teachers Making a Difference. The 12 most innovative teachers will share a cash prize of sh18m and the fi ve most outstanding will go for a week-long all-expenses paid study tour to Ireland courtesy of New Vision, Irish Embassy in Uganda, Trocaire and Simba Travelcare, one of Uganda’s leading tour and travel management companies. Today, we bring you the story of Josephine Anena of Labourline Primary School in Gulu.
(This story first ran in the New Vision paper on May 30)
It is 3:30pm at Labourline Primary School in Gulu municipality. Pupils play in the compound. It is a 30-minute break before they resume classes. A bell goes off and there is dead silence as the pupils scatter in different directions — others scamper back to the classrooms and others dash out through the gate.
It is at this break that the pupils in P1 and P2 head home. This is a unique arrangement which is in contrast to the Government time that such classes should break off at 12:45pm.
That alone sounds unusual but more still, while it is easy for pupils to join Labourline Primary School, it is almost a taboo for a parent or guardian to transfer a learner to another school.
It has now become the school’s policy that unless there is transfer of the parents or guardians and death, a child studying there must not be released to another school.
Interest in girl child
Mary Atoo, the chairperson of the School Management Committee (SMC) said at the beginning of each term, SMC and Parents and Teachers’ Association (PTA) take stock of every pupil, especially the girl child, who has not reported.
“The moment any girl disappears we follow her up. We do not encourage the transfer of the girls unless the headteacher authorises,” Atoo says, adding that that is the reason girls enrolment at the school is higher than boys. Of the total enrolment of 1,100 pupils, 620 are girls. Atoo says the school’s focus is to ensure that girls achieve their education dreams.
“As soon as a pupil reaches P6 and P7, no one is allowed to leave. In case one leaves, the school endeavours to also find out the school the pupil is joining,” says Atoo.
The school, in Pece Division in the heart of Gulu town, Labourline sits on less than a half-acre. It got its name because of its proximity to the staff quarters that supplied labourers to the colonial masters.
Ketty Lukiiko, a parent, says the school had gone to the dogs, with high levels of indiscipline and poor academic performance. It was until 2012 when Josephine Anena Oginga, was posted as the new headteacher that things changed.
Lukiiko says on arrival from Baptist Primary School in Layibi Division, Anena initiated class meetings where critical issues that affected the school operations were discussed among parents and teachers.
This strategy was a milestone in the transformation of academic performance. Parents were allowed to visit the school at any time to monitor the learning process and even attend lessons. Being a member of the division child protection committee, Lukiiko equally played an instrumental role in extending guidance and counselling to stubborn pupils.
Anena restructured lessons at Labourline such that each subject is taught twice daily by two different teachers. As a result, Anena says the syllabus is always covered by second term leaving the entire third term for revision.
To ensure that there is collective responsibility in the monitoring of extra lessons in the evening, a teacher is assigned to supervise colleagues during the lessons.
As a result, performance in the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) has steadily improved from just eight candidates passing in Division One in 2012 to 16 last year. The school was the third best performing under the universal primary education (UPE) programme in Gulu Municipality in the 2017 PLE.
Municipal inspector of schools speaks out
Fiona Atim, the Gulu Municipal inspector of schools, praises Anena for leading by example.
“For every time I go for inspection, teachers are always ready to teach and Anena herself has developed a tool for monitoring teachers,” Atim noted.
In sports, the school has won several trophies for excelling in athletics, music, dance and drama and debating competitions. But also, in order to equip learners with life skills Straight Talk Uganda introduced Young Club five years ago where they sit and share their experiences.
During the discussions, teachers guide them on their future careers, roles and responsibilities of boys and girls.
“My father impacted a lot on my career,” says Anena.
Both parents being teachers, Anena, says their profession greatly shaped her career. Although she became pregnant in Senior Five, she remained focused on her career.
With her father (now deceased) being a headteacher in the district rural schools, Anena says she learnt a lot from him in terms of administration, handling of lower and upper classes.
“I learnt that it is not wise to always take a teacher before the disciplinary committee in case of misbehaving,” she says. She adds that a mere removal of the teacher’s name from the time table is enough disciplinary action.