OUT of compassion to see that every child in the community gets education, Tebaweesa started a nursery school in Mulago,
Doreen Murungi writes
Doreen Murungi writes
WHEN Norah Tebaweesa was a teacher at Mulago Kindergarten, she often strolled through the populated slum area around Mulago. She would see children playing in dirty water, eating food from dirty plates and living in a filthy environment.
â€œSeeing these children playing in drainages was painful and many times my heart bled for the children whose parents could not afford to pay school fees,â€ she says.
Out of compassion to see every child in the community in school, Tebaweesa decided to start Merryland Kindergarten in Triangle Zone, Mulago.
The school, which gives free uniforms to pupils, charges sh50,000 a term â€” a fee much less than the other schools around which charge over sh400,000.
Parents are also allowed to pay school fees in manageable installments.
â€œTebaweesa is not after money. When you talk to her, she understands and allows you to pay when you can,â€ says Grace Nansubuga whose children went Merryland Kindergarten.
Seven-year-old Gabriel Oceng attends nursery. He grew up in a rural area and was unable to attend school early. He could not read, write, count or speak English.
While many schools would not take on a child of that age in nursery school, Tebaweesa looked beyond this an did it. She knew she could make a difference in the life of Oceng and many others, who due to some barriers have not been able to attend school at an early age.
â€œSome parents may not want to bring their children because they think they are too old for nursery but I encourage them to. When the child makes progress, they keep the child in school,â€ Tebaweesa says.
Prossy Naigaga, another pupil from Busoga, wanted a place in top class. However, when she was interviewed she lacked basic knowledge to help her go through this level.
Tebaweesa did not shun her. She worked with other teachers and gave Naigaga maximum attention until she was able to compete favourably with other pupils.
Tebaweesa also helps working parents with young children by encouraging them to bring their toddlers to the day care centre that runs along side the nursery school.
â€œWe keep the children around while the parents are working for a monthly fee,â€ she adds.
Tebaweesaâ€™s responsibilities stretch beyond the classroom. She personally knows the childrenâ€™s parents, helpers and where they reside. When a child has an issue, she visits the parents and asks them to cooperate to improve the childâ€™s situation.
â€œTebaweesa observes a childâ€™s behaviour and advises parents on how to handle their child,â€ says Fred Kintu, a parent.
Tebaweesa aims at establishing a solid foundation which enables the children to overcome any challenges when they go to a competitive primary school.
What others say about her
Vena Mukiibi, a teacher at the kindergarten, says Tebaweesa is hard working and handles the teachers and parents well.
â€œShe even pays our salary on time,â€ a delighted Mukiibi says.
Sarah Kawooya, who started working with Tebaweesa at Merryland, says they have worked together for over 15 years. Kawooya describes Tebaweesa as a very co-operative person who is making a tremendous difference in the community.
Betty Nagawa, a teacher at the nursery, commends Tebaweesa for serving people in the community.
â€œTebaweesa has created job opportunities for people like me. I live in this community and I did my teaching practice at Merryland kindergarten. When I finished school, she gave me a job,â€ Nagawa says.
Tebaweesa has nurtured children who are now at university.
â€œWhen she started her school, we followed her. She is the one who taught my children how to read and write. They are now at university on government sponsorship and I attribute it to the good foundation she gave them,â€ says Nalubega whose children were all taught by Tebaweesa.
Tebaweesaâ€™s journey has not been all smooth. She rents the school premises and says it is hard to meet the costs because of the meagre income.
She also incurs high maintenance costs because the school is located in a slum. â€œPeople have broken in and walked away with school property,â€ Tebaweesa says.
At the moment, the small school accommodates about 40 children. During time for siesta, the pupils take turns to rest because of the limited space.
Tebaweesa confesses that dealing with uneducated parents is very difficult.
â€œCommunication is hard since some parents are illiterate. I have to visit such parents to deliver the message verbally,â€ she says.
While the parents are very supportive, there are some who abuse her kindness and refuse to clear school dues.
The school has a staff of nine members; six teachers, two helpers and one security guard.
Who is Norah Tebaweesa?
Tebaweesa is the headmistress of Merryland Kindergarten. The sixth born of 10 children, Tebaweesa grew up in Mukono district, Kitula village, Namuganga, sub-county, Nakivuma County.
She studied her primary at Nalinya Lwantale in Buloba and joined Trinity College Nabbingo where she completed Senior Four. As a child, Tebaweesa dreamt of becoming a doctor.
â€œI wanted to do medicine. I never thought that one day I would become a teacher,â€ Tebaweesa recalls.
Every time she saw nurses and doctors, her dream to be like them was rekindled until the flame was completely put out when her father stopped working. She then started staying with her aunt who encouraged her to study a nursery teaching course.
She enrolled for a diploma in early learning childhood development at Young Women Christian Association.
One wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate, if this is the yard stick, Tebaweesa is the warmth in the snowstorms of Triangle Zone, Mulago.
Tebaweesa has umbilical ties with Mulago slums