Amagezi Education Centre

AEC

Amagezi Education Centre

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand”

Benjamin Franklin

The Amagezi Education Centre (AEC) is a unique and inspiring centre in the heart of Kyabirwa village. The centre opened its doors in 2007, as a pioneering educational facility with a dual focus of:

- Enabling schools to meet the needs of Universal Primary Education (UPE);
- Building the capacity of local communities to tackle poverty.

IMG_1787In the beginning, the core value of the AEC was that access to learning and information holds the key to individual and community development, and should be available to all. After two years of research and consultation within schools and local communities, together with the results of numerous pilot projects, Soft Power Education developed a number of educational and capacity-building projects, each designed to contribute towards enabling communities to break the cycle of poverty.

Between 2007 and 2017, the main focus of the AEC was the P6 Pupils’ Project. Several other community development projects also ran through the centre.

P6 Pupils

“To enhance the knowledge of life skills through fun, creative, innovative and hands on education”

Rationale

In 1997, Universal Primary Education (UPE) was introduced in Uganda, with the express aim of improving “access, equity and quality” in primary school education. UPE brought with it a huge influx of pupils to government primary schools, which resulted in very high pupil to teacher ratios together with an inadequate number of trained teachers and a severe lack of teaching aids, equipment and educational resources. Subsequently, the quality of teaching in UPE schools was poor, as evidenced through poor examination results achieved by pupils and high drop-out rates.

P6 Pupils’ Project

The aim of the P6 Pupils’ Project was to counteract the negative aspects of UPE with the provision of innovative teaching methods, educational resources and teaching aids relevant to the primary school curriculum, whilst also focusing classes on life skills such as sustainable agricultural practice, malaria awareness and sexual reproductive health.

The project increased knowledge and retention of life skills and curriculum-based for Primary Class 6 students, thereby increasing self-esteem, motivation, confidence, performance and participation of students, in particular, empowerment of female students. The outcome promoted an increased interest in continuing with education. It also built the capacity and skills of teachers at partnering schools.

 

Between 2007 and 2017, Soft Power Education’s P6 Pupils’ Project worked with pupils from 22 partner schools across the Jinja district, who visited the centre twice yearly.

- Through the creativity of art, the students were engaged in the importance of a balanced diet by identifying food groups and drawing an ‘eat well plate’. Few Ugandan primary schools have the resources available to encourage creativity, so the art department was a firm favourite amongst the visiting pupils!

- In 2007, the average Ugandan family had 7 children and thus it was identified that family planning played a crucial role in the development of Uganda. Through an interactive game, P6 pupils understood the challenges brought about by having a large family – education, healthcare and general wellbeing. Our drama department equipped the students with the facts to enable them to make informed decisions.

- Technology is an integral part of our society, yet few Ugandan schools have access to any form of it. Our ICT lab gave visiting pupils the opportunity to use a computer and begin to understand the crucial role it plays in everyday life.

- The vast majority of government primary schools across Uganda do not enjoy even basic textbooks, let alone a library filled with colourful stories and imagination-evoking tales. Our library sessions aim to instil a culture of reading amongst the pupils – encouraging them to get excited about the possibilities books offer.

- In 2007, the rural population of Uganda stood at 83.5%. The vast majority of this population rely on subsistence farming. Our agriculture department recognise the importance of this sector and how a few small changes can evoke a significant impact on crop yields and productivity. Our focus was on maintaining and improving soil fertility through organic composts form household waste.

- Whilst Uganda was high commended in ensuring girls have the same access to education as boys, girls face numerous challenges. Our science department focused on personal hygiene and the menstrual cycle – demonstrating to both boys and girls how to make a reusable sanitary pad from locally-available materials.

P6 Pupils’ Project class sizes were restricted to a maximum of 15 pupils, allowing ample teacher-student interaction. The project was designed to boost self-esteem and enable pupils to experience a practical and hands-on approach to learning, away from their usual ‘chalk and talk’ classroom environment.

Schools’ Festivals

Soft Power Education’s Schools’ Festival invites the schools who attend the P6 Pupils’ Project at the AEC to a day of fun-filled competition! Each school is represented by ten pupils who compete for three prizes – outreach participation, consistence in attendance and most participation at the AEC, and the overall winner of the day’s activities. Each day is given a specific theme. Check out the archive for more information.

 

Learning and Education for All Programme

 

After 10 successful years, the P6 Pupils’ Project was redesigned to ensure it was addressing current issues at government primary schools across the Jinja district. SPE’s Learning and Education for All Programme “LEAP” was launched in 2018 and focuses on three core areas – “bellies, bodies and brains” – through sessions on food security and skills & empowerment.

To increase contact time with P6 pupils, LEAP sessions are no longer delivered at the AEC but at our 12 partner primary schools themselves. Watch this space to find out how the AEC will be used going forward…

P6 Parents

P6 Parents’ Project

 

The P6 Pupils’ Project equipped pupils with skills needed in daily life. In 2010, we expanded the programme to involve the parents of the pupils, teaching them the same sessions as their children. Skills in family planning, nutrition, compost making and compost application were more likely to be applied by parents themselves than by the pupils, and families were able to support each other in the implementation of what they had learnt at home.

Arts

 

Pottery

Nestled in a shady matooke grove in Kyabirwa sat fourteen local youths resting for lunch. It was their hands, support from the local community and the fundraising from students from the ‘World Class Kayak Academy’ that an empty field was transformed into a pottery.

In 2004, Maddy Leslie received over one hundred and fifty applications from young adults from Kyabirwa village. After hours of reading and re-reading applications, she shortlisted and interviewed, and fourteen of the least privileged were chosen. They were girls and boys that could not afford to continue their education, some that could not even afford to sit their P7 exams. The group were desperate to learn a new skills and support a project that would assist their community. The apprenticeship had begun.

With the assistance of Ugandan potters, the apprentice’s skills came on leaps and bounds. The apprenticeship continued until the end of February 2005. The students learned a variety of skills, from laying foundations to throwing pots, sourcing clay to tile making. The quality of work was incredible and they had managed to grasp the breadth of ceramics – an achievement in itself. The production lines opened in October 2005 and four Ugandan apprentices ran the centre. Pupils from the twenty local primary schools began coming for daylong workshops offering the children a chance for a diverse, extracurricular creative education.

Endowoza Arts Centre

The apprentices began advancing onto other projects including beautiful wood print posters and ‘happiness’ cards, depicting how each artist depicted happiness – whether it was time spent with friends, sitting beside a fire or buying a new dress.

As part of the P6 Pupils’ Project, students visited the arts centre to learn about colours and how to mix them, leaving each day with their very own charcoal drawings and painted colour wheel showing primary and secondary colours. Through the creativity of these art sessions, the students were taught in the importance of a balanced diet by identifying food groups and drawing an ‘eat well plate’. Few Ugandan primary schools have the resources available to encourage creativity, so the art department was a firm favourite amongst the visiting pupils!

Over the years a range of beautiful individually hand-crafted products were sold, including paper bead and ceramic necklaces, bead necklaces and earrings, carved wooden animals, iron geckos and warriors and banana fibre art. In 2009, a newly built arts centre shop opened to showcase the products.

In 2009, an apprenticeship scheme invited to train in various art forms using locally sourced materials. Applicants had to submit a piece of artwork and the response was incredible – we received pencil drawing, crochet and weaving as an example of people’s talent. Under the guidance of Silagi, one of the original apprentices in 2004, and a group of trainers, the apprentices were taught a variety of techniques. The group learned how to look with imagination at available resources, much of which were recycled and waste products, and turn them into stimulating art pieces. All profits from the Endowoza Arts Centre went directly back to SPE to support their ongoing projects.

Sewing Circle

Before the formation of our women’s empowerment knitting group, Soft Power Education’s ‘sewing circle’ gave local women from Kyabirwa village the opportunity to attend weekly classes and learn how to make basic clothing and useful items for the home. This not only empowered the women to generate their own income, but allowed them time to socialise with other women away from the challenges of everyday life.

The ladies learnt how to make handbags and wall hangings from printed fabric which were sold for profit. They were also contracted to make tablecloths, napkins and uniforms for local restaurants – a true testament to their ever-growing skills in tailoring.

Community Development

Community Development

One of the aims of the Amagezi Education Centre was that the local community of Kyabirwa village felt integrated and included. Opening it up fostered a sense of ownership It ensured community members could take advantage of accessible and affordable activities, and gave them the opportunity to socialise together and share experiences and ideas with people from all over the world.

 

ICT/Library Sessions

The ability to access information is crucial in enabling people to fight the causes of poverty. Remote locations leads to isolation and exclusion from decision making processes and development initiatives, and communities are disempowered through a lack of access to information, leading to a lack of control over their own lives.

Our 2007 research showed that many students from rural areas complete their secondary years with no basic knowledge of computers and with no library skills whatsoever. ICT was seen by people in rural communities as a specialist endeavour which can only be understood and accessed by educated people from urban areas.

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This project aimed to build the capacity of secondary school pupils to access and utilise our ICT facilities and library,

- To increase community knowledge and skills relating to ICT;
- To build the community capacity to access and utilise ICT facilities;
- To develop employment based skills.

This project aimed to build the capacity of secondary pupils to access and utilise our ICT lab and library, facilities which were not available at school. Courses were taught during the school holidays, and students left with a good knowledge of how to navigate a computer, and a written application letter and curriculum vitae.

 

TEFL

 

Knitting Group

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