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Ugandan Teacher of English Moves from Text Books to Interactive Teaching PDF Print E-mail


Teacher of English Alex Kirere from St Leo’s College in Western Uganda was struggling to keep his students interested. With the help of digital tools, Kirere now has more older students that choose English Literature as a course.

“My students give me a hard time, because since they started using computers for some of their English classes, they do not want to go to the regular classrooms any more.” laughs English teacher Alex Kirere. Kirere teaches at St Leo’s College, a Catholic all-boys high school, in a quiet area a little outside of Fort Portal, surrounded by fields of grass.  

Basic computer skill training for students

St Leo’s Secondary School consists of a group of free-standing buildings of maximum two floors where the students have classes and other buildings where they sleep. In one of the buildings, a computer lab was set up where all first and second year students learn computer theory and basic computer skills.

With the support of IICD and Edukans (in the Connect4Change consortium) and Ugandan partners Computers for Schools Uganda and RWECO, at St. Leo’s college and 7 other schools throughout Uganda, teachers of English are trained how to use computers in their classes to enliven their classes and increase their level of education.

Ten students per textbook

Although Kirere already learned how to work with a computer during his study, the teacher and his fellow teachers did learn some additional skills from other teachers at St Leo’s. “Previously, we used textbooks. But we only had a limited amount, so usually 10 of my students were sharing 1 copy. Now with my laptop, I type the text and project it with a projector so all my students can see. I encourage students to think along, by writing questions about certain passages and by also projecting them.” Kirere says that he shows a wide variety of poems in his class. “We handle Shakespeare, but also African writers such as Wole Soyinka and Timothy Wangusa.”

After projecting the texts, Kirere asks his students to come up with their own poems. The students write these on the computers in the computer classroom and then present them in their regular classroom by using Kirere’s laptop and the beamer. Literature is only one of the three English courses that first year students at St Leo’s have to take. They also take english composition classes and English grammar classes. Kirere now even asks his students to write essays on a computer, and to hand them to him on a USB stick so he can grade the essays digitally. His students also sometimes do plays in English that are then filmed and shown to other students.

Enthusiasm increases

Because of the digital and more interactive approach to teaching, Kirere’s student are more enthusiastic, he says. “English Literature is only mandatory in the first two grades. After that, it becomes optional. What we now see is that more third and fourth year students choose English literature. In 2009 only four older students chose English Literature. In 2011, we started using computers and the number of students already increased to 112 students. And, in 2012 until November, 120 students already chose English Literature as an advance course.”
Movies about the books
Even the students that are just starting are enthusiastic. In one of the classrooms, a 14-year old boy in the school’s uniform (a green and yellow sweater and a white dress shirt) recites a moralistic poem about good and bad students. This is the 14-year old first year student Absalom Tweheyo, who never used computers before. He is now able to write his own poems with a computer and as it turns out, the poem that he was reciting, was his own. “I like working with computers and other technologies. My favorite part of the new classes? That my teacher shows movies about some of the books that we are reading. We just watched a part of Oliver Twist and my teacher then asked questions about it.”

Because of the increased popularity, Kirere’s school is already thinking about expanding their computer programme. The training of teachers by IICD, Edukans and their Ugandan partners continue, and the teachers are also training other teachers. In addition to this, the school is so confident that their new system works, that they ask parents to (financially) contribute a little so more computers can be bought and future equipment maintenance costs can be covered.

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