Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sure Prospects =)


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?

9 comments:

  1. Well, I guess it's time for me to get involved in these blogs - this is Braeden by the way =)

    Today was such an amazing and eye opening experience!

    I have such a great respect for the Sure Prospects organization and what they are working to accomplish and I'm so happy that Drake and MUBS have found a way to partner with them to help provide much-needed supplies! Additionally, the amount of donations given out by the Drake students was outstanding!

    Sure Prospects is creating a new generation of accepting individuals by schooling able bodied children alongside the disabled and handicapped. Because of this, they are ensuring that these able bodied students will carry with them a greater respect for the disabled that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Additionally, they are showing the disabled and handicapped that they can still be active members of society.

    I think it is really cool - and entirely necessary - that Sure Prospects has their own training system for their staff (regardless of what training they may have received prior). The three month "probation period" may seem harsh to some, but it makes sense that they wan't to see new teachers in action before they hire them full time.

    To answer one of your questions Dori, I don't just think this school CAN contribute to sustainable development, I believe it already IS contributing.

    The way Sure Prospects goes about educating the disabled and handicapped is unlike any other school in Uganda. Rather than creating more problems by just dumping differently-abled children into mental homes or "disabled clinics", Sure Prospects is going out of the way to respect that every child has the right to an education. By doing this, they are allowing disabled and handicapped children to eventually become active members of society rather than being locked up in special "homes" as is common in Uganda.

    Also along the lines of sustainability, something to remember is that the school is not only funded by donations and selling crops. The able bodied students actually pay tuition which goes towards giving disabled students a free education.

    --

    While I did love the visit overall, there was one minor thing that I was disappointed in, and that was their lack of awareness of some of their students and their actions during "free time". Here's an example:

    A little boy - no older than four or five - was almost run over by a van today....One of the school's drivers was backing out of their parking lot/play-yard area when a young boy wandered towards the back of his van. The boy was completely oblivious and not even looking at the van and the driver clearly didn't check his mirrors thoroughly before backing up. He just assumed students knew to stay out of the way. When I saw this taking place I immediately sprinted across the playground yelling at the driver to stop. I got there just in time to grab the young boy right as his shoulder touched the rear bumper of the van...

    I realize that the driver didn't see the boy and I understand that it's a hectic place and kids should know to pay attention and stay out of the way of moving cars. But, as long as there is not a separate parking area that kids cannot easily access, I will worry for the safety of those students. I think it is an issue that should be looked into in the near future. Maybe that can be Drake's next project with Sure Prospects?

    In the end, today was a life changing experience and I feel so lucky to have been a part of it! I miss all of the kids I became friends with - especially little Joseph who clung on to me for most of the visit.

    -Braeden Stanley
    (sorry my blog account isn't working for some reason)

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  2. I had a spectacular time at Sure Prospects. The children were all so friendly and enthusiastic, and the experience was truly incredible. The thing that I was most impressed by was the focus that the school has on dispelling the stigma associated with disabilities. Prejudiced perceptions of the disabled are particularly prevalent in Uganda, and one of Sure Prospects' primary goals is to change that. I think that this is both admirable and necessary. The program at Sure Prospects involves community outreach to enlighten Ugandan citizens, and I agree that undoubtedly the most effective method they are using to dispel unwarranted negativity is the integration of normally-abled and disabled students. I was really impressed to see students helping each other outside of a classroom environment seemingly without ever being instructed to do so. Able-bodied students would talk to and translate for their deaf classmates, and I saw one little blind boy who was being led around by one of his classmates who was letting him hang onto their shoulder. Honestly, I feel like there is more openness and acceptance at Sure Prospects than there is in most American elementary schools. Because of the ratios and integration of the children, I feel that the children at this school completely overcome any stigmas, whereas in American schools (or at least within my schooling experience) the disabled are a tiny minority and are separated from the rest of the student body most of the time, so they are perceived as being different by the rest of the students. At Sure Prospects, the other students merely see them as classmates. I realize that the disabled are a minority of the overall population, so utilizing a program like this with such high ratios cannot be an option for every school. However, I think that it is a brilliant and effective system for eliminating prejudices and that it should be utilized in more places, including in schools in the U.S.

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  3. Sure Prospects was such a great experience and I was so happy to get involved with the students. I felt much more comfortable at this school. The students were so excited we came to visit them! I encountered many difficulties within my "Sure" group. The first student that greeted me just wanted to hold my hand and stare at me. Then the other students came and wanted to talk and ask me questions, and finally I asked the girl what her name was, and she did not respond. She just stared at me with amazement, and I asked again. Finally another student came to me and said she doesn't talk, so I just continued to ask questions to see if she would talk to me. Still no answers. She followed me around all day and we played many games before one of her teachers came to me and told me that we were playing well together and that she was deaf. I just thought she was shy and wouldn't talk to me. She taught me so much throughout the games and the day. She stuck really close to me and didn't want to leave me when she had to go get lunch. I think sure prospects morals are amazing and there needs to more schools like this around the world. Every child deserves a chance to interact as a normal child, and Sure Prospects does a great job in giving their students many "opportunities". In my grade school, I went to a small school, so we didn't have a special education department, but at the public schools around me they did. Many special education classes were for the severely disabled children. They had their own classrooms and they didn't interact much with the rest of the kids their age. I love how Sure Prospects had one class for each age no matter what the disability is. Sure Prospects was a great experience and lets just say that I was so tired when we got back that I was asleep by 9:30.

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  4. I can honestly say that visiting Sure Prospects was one of my favorite days! The story behind the school is very inspiring. I think it is amazing that they are combining the special needs children with the children without special needs. It is showing the kids with special needs that they are just like everyone else...it is showing the children without special needs to accept them and treat them like everyone else. This is a model of how society should be. Overall, they are trying to change the society's perception of "handicapped" children and prove to them that they can be successful. I think their motives are great, and I hope to see them succeed. I worry that society is not going to accept some of these children and allow them into the workforce, realistically. However, it seems to me that Sure Prospects is giving the disabled the education they need to make that happen better than any other school would.
    Sure Prospects is so different than City Secondary School. Besides a few incidents, you can tell that the faculty really cares for the children (in my opinion more than City Secondary School). The women in charge of the nursery was saying it is important to offer and show them love. Sure Prospects seems to care and love each and every student. During our visit it was evident that the children just wanted to be loved or have a friend. I personally was holding a little boy for about an hour while the games were going on. Then Francis introduced me to two of his daughters. The youngest one came to me and said "up". I held her the rest of the morning, up to lunch. At one point she even fell asleep on me. Michael had a little boy who was literally attached to him. He was sad seeing them say goodbye. When Michael tried to give him a shirt he smiled and tried to return it. All he wanted was Michael, it was so cute!!! The children were all so loving!
    I hope to see Sure Prospects continue to succeed and grow! It was truly an amazing experience that I will never forget! By providing these children with education they are taking steps to improve the sustainable development!

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  5. Sure Prospects was absolutely amazing and I cannot wait to go back and teach this week! The school as a whole was an inspiration to me.

    When I was in high school we had a peer mentor program which is comparable to the "buddy system" that is in place at the school. During a PE class and a cooking class, my friends and I served as peer helpers to those students who were placed in the life skills classrooms. It was a great experience for me!

    I think that Sure Prospects contributes positively to sustainable development. They are giving every student a right to an education and to become successful. The school is also helping to decrease the stigma and discrimination against individuals with special needs in Uganda.

    One aspect of the school that I thought was really interesting was that the students with special needs are mainstreamed. In terms of education, mainstreaming is when children with special needs are put into general education classrooms with the "normal" students. In America, there is much controversy over the idea of mainstreaming. I look forward to seeing it in action when we teach this week to see if it changes my perspective as a future educator!

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  6. I admire all the work put in by the faculty and staff at Sure Prospects, because it’s evident that they are truly making a difference in the lives of the students. I definitely think Sure Prospects can contribute to sustainable development because education in general is preparing students to be contributing members of society. Sure Prospects takes this to a whole new level, because they are making a distinct effort to educate those who don’t always receive the necessary attention in the special needs community. I was really surprised at just how protective some of the older students were and the relationships that were evident amongst the students, disability or not. As somebody studying Special Education, it’s vital for these students to be interacting with their mainstream peers, but I know this is not often the case. I distinctly remember my classmates being pulled out or being singled out to receive the attention they needed. This is disappointing because they are missing out on crucial social opportunities that could help them develop in numerous ways. I think it’s upsetting to see individuals with special needs discriminated against no matter the extent of the discrimination. I think it exists in both countries and is something that Sure Prospects is working towards minimizing,

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  7. This was one of my favorite days! Being at home now, it is one of the first events I tell people about and I LOVE to show all of my pictures of the children.
    I really hope this program is sustainable with their funding methods, but it seems hard to believe that they have enough money with only donations, selling some crops, and some of the students tuition. This program is amazing and I really hope they will be able to continue for a long time.
    The testing situation also seems like a difficult one and it makes me wonder what happens to these students after they graduate. Are they ready to help their communities or are they still seen as a burden? Do they receive any more education?
    On a last note, I loved that they intermix able-bodied students with disabled students. I think children are much more accepting of people who are different than adults. If we had programs like this in the United States, I think it would help our culture and society too.

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  8. Sure Prospects. What can't I say about that day?! I've been volunteering with young children for wish years, so I was so excited to hangout and goof around with the little kids and see what their school is like! I was placed into the orange group where I met some of the most amazing children I've ever met. Specifically, I met a boy named Aloza. He did not have the ability to hear, but we tried communicating as best as we could through my terrible sign language and facial expressions. This little boy would not leave my side. He honestly sat outside the doors at lucy and attacked me the second we started touring again!
    I was so happy that we got to go on field training day though because it was so relaxing/fun to just have fun and not stress about everything else going on in country.

    Here's my actual reflection:
    I am so happy an educational facility like this one exists in Uganda. They offer equal opportunities for those with and without special needs and decrease the overall discrimination that exists in the country. I honestly think they did a better job making everyone feel important that most American schools do! Being a RA, I know how important it is to make people feel important being the individual they are, and I felt that here. This is HUGE in terms of social sustainability because it decreases the overall discrimination of those with special needs and allows those with special needs to have the opportunities they wouldn't receive anywhere else.

    My only disappointment was the the professors wouldn't let me smuggle Aloza onto the bus. I honestly would've taken him back with me if I could've.

    This post is dedicated to you, Aloza! Hope you're having a blast at school bud!

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  9. I love all these comments! Im so glad everyone enjoyed there time! michael i felt the same way i wanted to take home one of the students and I'm pretty sure everyone else did too! it is great that we were able to play and make the children laugh and smile but most importantly that they did the same for us! sometimes we get caught up in the college life and forget about the simple things that children do and enjoy!

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