This last term I’ve reduced my teaching schedule to two streams of Senior 2 math. I happen to enjoy teaching math much more than physics and I wanted to spend my time doing other things such as more life skills classes, sexual education lessons and ICT instruction with the brighter students at my school.
I also spent three solid days assisting our Timetable Master with creating the new schedule of classes for the 2012 school year. You know how in America we have computer programs that can pretty much schedule classes, students and teachers for us? You simply input the courses the students want to take, the teachers that are available to teach those courses, the time slots available, etc. and in turn the program spits out a nicely organized schedule of lessons that fits everyone’s preferences (for the most part).
Well in Uganda, they haven’t quite made it that far yet. That is to say, there is no computer program. It’s literally done by one guy, the Timetable Master. This “Master” is responsible for scheduling over 600 students and 22 teachers into a standard five-day school week. Compounding the difficulty, the school is short on teachers in crucial subjects like math and physics (hence part of the reason I am here). Additionally, the teachers the school does have only come two or three days a week.
(Sidenote: why do the teachers at our school only come two or three days a week? Because they are “part-timers”. Meaning they allot part of their time to one school and part of their time to another school. Now why would a teacher who is assigned to Kamuge High School also go and work at another school? Because he/she can earn more money! The Ministry of Education pays a secondary education teacher a standard salary for teaching at a Universal Secondary Education (USE) school (usually around 400,000 shillings, or less than $200 a month). But, if the teacher goes off and part times at a private school he/she can earn extra money on top of this. USE teachers are not supposed to do this. But they do. And who can blame them? They get paid a sh*t salary and they’re just trying to earn more for their families. But in the meantime the students and school suffer.)
Moving on, all these reasons taken together make it very difficult to schedule classes in a way to everyone’s liking. It is an extremely tedious and frustrating task to put together such a schedule. And once it is done, it rarely gets modified throughout the year.
We were in the fourth week of classes and a new schedule still had not been drawn up. Why? Because it’s a crappy task that nobody wants to do. But it needed to be done. Finally I offered to help our Timetable Master put it together and with the assistance of Excel we cranked it out together.
Only to have everyone complain about how they didn’t get the days they wanted or the streams they wanted or the times they wanted. We went through several iterations and finally a final timetable was established… that nobody will follow. J But at least it’s there now.
We’ve been invaded by moths! Seriously, they’re everywhere. I don’t know why either. They weren’t here last year or the year before that. They just simply showed up. And they are everywhere. Outside, in my house, at my school, inside all the buildings at the school. It’s really bizarre. I forget that we are kind of in the wild here sometimes. I suppose these things happen. The locals don’t seem to pay much attention at all to them since they don’t cause any harm. They don’t seem bothered or concerned in the slightest.
The other day I was sitting beneath a few trees in the shade with four other teachers at my school. Mr. Otuna (my physics counterpart) was having small talk with Madam Aloro (our Director of Studies) when he posed a question that resembled something like this “How is my OB [so-and-so]?” He posed this question to Madam Aloro. OB stands for Old Boy. Here, if one says “my OB”, it means you attended school with this person at one time or another. Mr. Otuna and this “OB” were classmates and he was inquiring into the general well being of this person.
“He died! Two years ago! Didn’t you hear?” Madam Aloro swiftly replied. Mr. Otuna reacted with the most stoic expression I’ve ever seen in my life. He didn't make eye contact with anyone. He didn't move his head at all. He didn't say anything. His eyes just slowly drifted down to the grass and found a resting position where he began to stare. Madam Aloro continued on and on about how he died, what happened, what medical condition eventually led to the demise of this unfortunate soul whom I’ve never heard of or met before. And all the while Mr. Otuna continued to stare downwards and listen.
It was a really sad moment. One that I just kind of took in as an outside observer. I think maybe it caught me by surprise because death is so common here. We hear about it all the time. People die of malaria or some other accident quite frequently here. It just kind of happens and people talk about it and move on. But I could see true remorse in Mr. Otuna that day. I could see him reflecting inside as he remained silent. And I could tell he was genuinely saddened. Nobody is ever quite prepared for the gravest of news. It’s what makes us all human. And this was truly reflected in him that day.