Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sure Prospects Indeed

Sure Prospects Indeed
On Thursday, our crew ate a quick breakfast at MUBS that surprisingly included mango, watermelon, popcorn, cookies, and our favorite samosas, in addition to the usual corn flakes, hard-boiled eggs, and toast. After this enjoyably random meal, we got on Big Blue and headed a bit south towards Entebbe for about 45 minutes eventually arriving at Sure Prospects Institute. This is a primary school for students with disabilities and students without. This is a rare commodity in developing countries so it was a special treat to get to see it, help out, and spend some time there. Since I have a Unified Early Childhood with Special Education endorsement to my Elementary Education major, this was truly a thrill for me.
When we initially got there, we met the headmaster, Francis, who spoke to us about why he started his school, how the government has viewed persons with disabilities in the past, how they view them now (definitely an improvement), and answered any and all questions we had for him. I was really impressed with him talking to us about how people used to see just the disability and not the person, but now it is the person first and their disability second. This was familiar for me because in my special education classes they have stressed to us future teachers that it is crucial to use "people first language" always, so this was cool to hear from Francis. There are almost 480 children that attend Sure Prospects, within that number there is a 1:3 ratio of children with disabilities to children without. They use an inclusive classroom and school model of not having a separate special education classroom, but having the students with disabilities in the same classrooms as everyone else. I have a lot of respect for this model, I think it would work really well as long as children get the extra help that they might require. Francis said that they have specialists come in to assess the children and report on what each child needs help with in order to succeed. The children with disabilities still take the same standardized tests that all children in Uganda have to take, but a lot of the time they will get extended time or some type of aid for their disability.
After this, we started in on our service project for them, painting walls and windows of a newer building that has classrooms and the staff lounge/supply room. Unfortunately there weren't many brushes so we had to take turns helping out. A few of us whose projects are connected with Sure Prospects got pulled out of the project to meet with staff from the school and go on tours. Austin spent time talking to someone about a proposed playground for the children. Jay was shown the water collection tank for his project. Cara, Caroline, Lisa F, Emily, and I are all going back to teach and help out next week in different classrooms so we got to go into the classrooms we’ll be in next week and interact with the children. Eventually this spilled out into the yard and other Drake and MUBS students joined the fun on breaks from painting. The students loved having us take pictures of them and then showing them what they looked like. Many songs, dances, and games like Simon Says were played. They children also really enjoyed the thousands of bubbles we blew for them and allowed them to try blowing. It was an amazing feeling to get their faces to light up, simply by being there and interacting with them.
A question for my cohorts: How was your experience at Sure Prospects? Do you think having a school for children with disabilities is sustainable for Uganda? Where do you see Sure Prospects heading in the future?

3 comments:

  1. I loved blowing bubbles and playing with the children! They would each want a turn blowing bubbles and come up to me shouting "Even me! Even me!". They were so cute! Multiple people simply addressed me as "Muzungu" which have learned to roughly translate to "white person". At first, I was almost offended by this term. But then I realized that it is almost used as "guest". The children didn't know my name, and so they called me by a term that defines me. It is not meant to be derogatory. This experience has been very positive, and Francis is doing great things for the sustainable development of Uganda in regards to education.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The trip to Sure Prospects was purely wonderful. Having worked with Special Olympics for four years back home, I was so excited to see the efforts to incorporate learning for children with special needs into schools with children that did not have special needs. Immediately after entering the school yard I could see the hundreds of curious faces looking through the classroom windows. After meeting Francis, I joined a few other Drake students to start painting walls. As fun as this was, I could not ignore the sound of the children playing in the schoolyard. So I handed over my brush and grabbed a bottle of bubbles and some of my smiley face pins.
    The greatest moment with the children at Sure Prospects was when three little girls figured out how to take my hair out of my bun and started to style it for me. As lame as it sounds, I usually don't care for my hair very often, but seeing these girls completely entranced by how soft and long my hair was was so wonderful. They continued to take my hair and burry their faces in it, giggle, and at times even put it in their mouths because they thought it smelled so nice. These children are in a wonderful school and the effort to support youth with mental and physical disabilities is strong enough to change the education and economic sectors of Uganda.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My experience at Sure Prospects was one of the highlights of my trip! Being that this school is one of the only of its kind in Uganda it was amazing that we had an opportunity to visit the school. What Francis is doing at Sure Prospects is likely one of the most sustainable education ventures in Uganda. He is working against stigma to prove that kids with disabilities are productive citizens that can and will contribute to society. He is giving them the tools to provide for themselves both economically and socially in their future all while making sure their economic, social and environmental needs are met while there are attending school. The goals that Francis shared with us were incredible. He said that he wants to educate the rural areas that many of the children come from on disabilities to help eliminate stigma. This will help Uganda in so many ways and give those with disabilities hope for the future.

    ReplyDelete