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Our Classroom Teacher

I want to tell you a little more about the Namuwongo Literacy Project (NLP) teacher.

In fact, Agnes Kirungi is more than a classroom teacher to the project.

I met Agnes when I made my first trip to the project site in Uganda in 2011.

Agnes warmly greeted the group of keen new volunteers from Canada. She graciously let us read to the children, to teach them some Canadian classroom songs and to play some Canadian elementary school games with them. Doing this was very satisfying for the visitors, and a unique kind of fun for the young NLP students.

As the days passed during that trip, I began to stand back and watch Agnes run the classroom. I became full of wonder at how she singlehandedly and smoothly managed all aspects of the school day for these twenty youngsters, ranging in ages from 4 to 13. Not only were they learning English as their second language, they were also at various levels of ability. Agnes saw that they got their breakfast, a snack and their lunch. Strict, but encouraging, she was simultaneously teaching math and literacy at all grade levels. As the children left her at the end of the school day, Agnes directed them to “Stay together!” for the long walk back to the Namuwongo slum settlement that is their home.

While receiving important support from the project’s host school, it is Agnes’s responsibility to manage the NLP classroom budget, the curriculum and also to acquire all provisions needed. She is the acting social worker who will actually go looking for a child who has not shown up for class. She will investigate when all is clearly not well with one of her students. For a variety of reasons, any of these children can suddenly or gradually lose all life supports, other than those provided by this project.

Over the years, and the subsequent visits I have now made to the project, Agnes has become a friend. I had the privilege of taking an overnight excursion with her to take her infant daughter to see her grandmother for the first time. Agnes comes from a nomadic cattle herding family, who have settled high up on a mountainous hill, west of Kampala. Agnes’s mother is a beautiful matriarch who takes care of the family’s livelihood, as well as some of her young grandkids, at her small home. She and I did not have a shared language, but I believe she must be proud of her daughter’s work and accomplishments.

Agnes teaching in the classroom

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