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?