Our Plan for Iganga District, Uganda

Our Plan for Iganga District, Uganda

OUR PROJECT: PROVIDE AN EDUCATIONAL MODEL THAT IMPACTS 30,000 UGANDAN STUDENTS

In 2013, approximately 65 million adolescents were out of school. A third of these adolescents live in sub-Saharan Africa (UNICEF Out of School Children Data Release, 2015).

Fifty-seven percent of secondary age children in Uganda have not completed a primary school education (National Education and Policy Center, 2014). Even more troubling is the decline in the quality and relevance of educational outcomes (see, for example, EPDC Spotlight on Uganda). As a result, communities have little incentive to keep children in school, and those who stay learn few skills to apply what they have learned for the good of the community.

Remaining on the current path will likely result in systemic failure. The proportion of out-of-school children will grow, the skills taught in school will be inadequate and irrelevant, and the efficiency and effectiveness of the money spent will decline.

Our method shifts educational emphasis, broadening traditional academic goals with the development of the skills needed to effectively address real community issues. By adding critical thinking and problem-solving skills, value-based prioritization, greater independence, and self direction to a solid foundation of academic skills, our pedagogy is designed for relevance and lifelong learning.

Our approach sets adolescents on a direct path to relevant and productive careers, effecting desperately needed economic progress within their communities, while exposing and resolving the social issues that are the barriers to progress in the first place: social injustice and exclusion, gender inequity, and poor personal health and well-being.

Our proposal is a partnership between ConnecTeach, and the Menya Zirabanuzale Schools (MZS) in the Iganga district of eastern Uganda. We have worked together before at the WalugogoTeacher Training College, one of the organizations under the MZS umbrella.

Our project will impact 1,300 teachers and 30,000 secondary students from 72 schools in 88 parishes in north and east Iganga.

You can support this project by clicking the “Donate” button or joining our GoFundMe campaign (www.gofundme.com/connecteach4uganda ). Just $5 can go a long way toward reaching our campaign goal. Please share our campaign link with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

By helping us, you help us all. 

Thank you.

 

Bhavani Parpia Honored with Inaugural ‘Triumph of the Spirit’ Award

Bhavani Parpia Honored with Inaugural ‘Triumph of the Spirit’ Award

DALLAS (SMU) — Peruvian champion of indigenous women’s rights Eliana Elias and innovative global-minded local educator Bhavani Parpia will be honored at SMU Nov. 12 as the first two recipients of Embrey Human Rights Program Triumph of the Spirit Awards. The awards carry a combined $30,000 in funding for the recipients made possible by an anonymous supporter of SMU’s undergraduate human rights program.

The inaugural Triumph of the Spirit event will include a 7 p.m. dinner in the Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom and 6 p.m. courtyard reception. The evening will feature thought-provoking interviews with Elias, Parpia and other human rights leaders, a mix of music and spoken-word performances and a compelling array of mixed-media art by past and present Embrey Human Rights Program students.

Reserved tables and individual tickets for the event are available at various sponsorship levels. For details, visit https://sites.smu.edu/apps/events/triumphofthespirit/tickets.asp or contact 214-768-3241 or kleinb@smu.edu.

The Triumph of the Spirit Awards aim to “reward people doing great work for others, sometimes at great risk to themselves,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin. “The awards represent a microcosm of life-changing work being done locally and around the world on issues affecting everyone. The awards also are meant to give us all hope that change can be made even by small steps of awareness and action.”

Elias and Parpia were selected for Triumph of the Spirit Awards from among several dozen human rights defenders nominated for providing selfless work on behalf of individuals and communities. The award selection committee, comprised of 19 SMU faculty and staff members, University alumni and regional community leaders and activists, chose Elias and Parpia for work best exemplifying the missions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Embrey Human Rights Program.

The Embrey Human Rights Program was created in 2006 as the result of a gift from the Embrey Family Foundation of Dallas. By 2012 SMU would become the fifth university in the nation and the first one west of Ohio to offer an undergraduate human rights degree.

Montessori teacher Bhavani Parpia is founder of the educational nonprofit ConnecTeach, helping underserved communities in South Asia and the Middle East improve the quality of education for hundreds of thousands of children one teacher at a time.

Parpia also serves as district world languages coordinator for the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District (HEB ISD), where she develops and oversees Arabic, Chinese and Hindi programs.

Before joining HEB ISD, Parpia founded the Primary School at North Hills Preparatory in Irving. Under her leadership, North Hills was ranked 13th-best performing school in the U.S., and in 2013, she received the World Affairs Council International Educator of the Year award.

Parpia has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Hindu College/Delhi University and a master’s degree in sociology from Virginia Tech.

Presenting the regional Triumph of the Spirit Award to Parpia will be S.M. Wright II, president/CEO of the S.M. Wright Foundation, which since 1998 has provided food, financial and social service support to inner-city children and families in need. The South Dallas pastor and civic leader is the son of the late Civil Rights pioneer Rev. S.M. Wright.

Serving as moderator of the Triumph of the Spirit Awards event will be Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders.

Sanders’ reporting work has earned him a regional Emmy Award and also garnered awards from the National Association of Black Journalists; the Houston, New York and Chicago film festivals; the Dallas Press Club; and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Offering creative expressions of music and spoken word will be Will Richey, Alejandro Perez Jr., and David Rodriguez of Journeyman Ink; the eclectic ensemble-in-residence at SMU Meadows School of the Arts Brazen Brass 5 (featuring five SMU students and alumni) and SMU student, opera singer, poet and dancer Maya Jones.

The Triumph of the Spirit Award is an iron elliptical sculpture with concentric rings around a circular core. Each award is engraved with the award winner’s name and the motto of the Embrey Human Rights Program, “There is no such thing as a lesser person.”

“The award symbolizes the interconnected spirit of humanitarians around the world, and that the community effort to work for peace is never-ending,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Assistant Director Bradley Klein. The rings represent different spheres in which such people as women’s rights activists, lawyers, physicians, and those fighting against torture work to uphold human rights.

“It is a tremendous honor to receive this award. My hope is that it helps bring awareness of our mission of quality education in the world’s poorest communities, as well as to inspire others to action in human rights causes,” said Ms. Parpia.

ConnecTeach is a non-profit organization that provides quality professional development for teachers in underserved schools around the world. Their highly-qualified volunteer educators provide teachers in these schools the tools they need to create stimulating learning environments, including on-site professional development, mentoring and certification in effective teaching practices. ConnecTeach contributes directly to the odds of success in the global fight against poverty by training and supporting teachers dedicated to the success of students in the world’s poorest communities.

ConnecTeach Tanzania: Misigiyo Project Reflection

ConnecTeach Tanzania: Misigiyo Project Reflection

Amy Miller

I did not fully grasp how powerful and effective the ConnecTeach model is until I went to Tanzania with Bhavani.

I had the incredible opportunity in October of 2018 to travel to Tanzania with the NGO ConnecTeach to facilitate an educator workshop over the course of 9 days. I have been fortunate to work with Bhavani and ConnecTeach over the past four years through my role as Director of Education at the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth. We previously collaborated to provide leadership trainings to North Texas high school students by facilitating conversations around social issues such as conflict, gender inequality and environmental conservation. Through those conversations, I got a glimpse of the effective model ConnecTeach developed to address significant social problems in communities around the world by engaging in conversation about controversial issues and empowering community members to affect positive change locally. I did not fully grasp how powerful and effective the ConnecTeach model is until I went to Tanzania with Bhavani though. 

We arrived in Karatu, a town in the north of the country, ready to work with a group of 10 educators who live and work in the nearby Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The majority of the educators were Masai, a nomadic indigenous tribe that herds cattle as their main source of income, who for the most part had received little to no training or professional development as teachers. Some of them manage classrooms of over 100 students of different ages and learning levels on their own. The resources available to these educators were very minimal in schools that were made from sticks thatched together with a small blackboard at the front of the space. As we learned over the course of the workshop, corporal punishment was commonly practiced in their schools as a form of discipline and punishment. 

Our goal for this workshop was to empower these 10 educators to see themselves as leaders and as agents of change in their communities. Additionally, we wanted to equip them with the skills to manage their classrooms without the use of corporal punishment, considering logical consequences for students’ actions instead. Throughout the course of the workshop, we also helped the teachers to grasp educational concepts related to differentiated learning, collaborative projects, foundations of English language learning, reading and writing strategies, and problem-based learning. Many of these concepts were brand new to this group of educators and took some time to review and check for understanding, but by the end of the workshop they showed a strong understanding and appreciation for these concepts. 

The most impressive shift in thinking during the workshop, in my opinion, is that the educators now say they will no longer use corporal punishment on their students.

Over the course of those 9 days, we tied learning concepts to social issues and initiated dialogues with the educators to consider what societal problems they see in their bomas, or villages. Some of the most prevalent issues they brought up related to poverty, lack of adult and sex education, misconceptions related to health, early marriage and gender inequality, as well as a lack of infrastructure. In discussing these issues, we emphasized the important role education plays in addressing and solving these problems. We also helped them to see their powerful roles as leaders in their communities because they are impacting the minds of multiple generations as educators. They can help to shape conversations and ideas around many of these issues by working with the students, parents and elders. We also helped them to develop a community survey, which they would use to ask community members about their perceptions on these social issues. By the end of the workshop, the teachers told us they were empowered and excited to facilitate their community survey and embrace their roles as community leaders.

  One of the most significant challenges we faced over the course of the workshop was the language barrier. While a couple of the educators had a high level of English language skills, the majority had some difficulty expressing their thoughts in English, and one of the educators, Ana, spoke no English so we relied heavily on one of the teachers, Saning’o, to translate our ideas into Kiswahili or Ma so that she could understand. Saning’o had the challenge of not only translating our words but also the cultural relevance of our examples to ensure that Ana understood how the themes tied into her understanding of the world. In the end, everyone grasped the ideas we were teaching but it took a significant amount of time to translate these concepts and check for understanding. Our hope is that Ana will learn some English language skills before we see her again so that we might be able to converse with her directly. 

I truly believe that this workshop had a significant positive impact on these educators, allowing them to see more clearly their roles as leaders.

The most impressive shift in thinking during the workshop, in my opinion, is that the educators now say they will no longer use corporal punishment on their students. One teacher in particular, Loomoni, said early in the workshop that he would use creative forms of corporal punishment on his students such as holding uncomfortable positions for hours, doing push ups, laying outside in the hot sun, and beating them with sticks. We spoke with him and the group about the importance of fostering a learning environment in which the students feel safe and comfortable asking questions as well as expressing when they do not understand a concept. In order to create such an environment, the students need to respect the teacher, not just fear him. Instead, we encouraged them to consider logical consequences for the students’ actions in order to help the students feel safe and understand the implications of their actions in the real world. 

I truly believe that this workshop had a significant positive impact on these educators, allowing them to see more clearly their roles as leaders and the responsibility they have to challenge longstanding ideas that can be detrimental to the prosperity of their communities. The educators were so grateful for the opportunity to work with ConnecTeach and are eager to work with us again. At this point, I’m excited to see the work that they produce while we’re away based on the assignments we gave them. Bhavani and I encouraged them to start a book club to foster more literacy skills, develop lesson plans based on the strategies we shared, and complete the community survey with a total of 4,000 community members. There’s a lot of work to be done before we return, but I’m optimistic they will take the assignments we gave them and run with them. I look forward to the day when we will be able to sit down with these educators in person again and discuss what they’ve been working on to develop their communities while we were away. I have every confidence they are now enacting the change they wish to see in their villages thanks to ConnecTeach.  

Rebecca’s Journey: Defiant Teen to Dedicated Teacher/Activist

Three years ago, Rebecca was a defiant 16-year old, training to become a teacher. Tell me, how many 16-year olds would you trust to have the skills to engage classes of up to 200 5-6 year olds, in cramped rooms, with scarcely any resources? Rebecca was one of a few hundred young trainees amused at our horror that punishment for children ranging from caning and “stalking” to digging and then standing on ant hills was the norm. She told us that there was nothing wrong with these inventive ways to discipline a child because after all, she had been beaten as a child and she had survived, hadn’t she? Fast-forward three years, here is Rebecca again:  “The knowledge that I have acquired from you (ConnecTeach) will enable me to transform my community and Uganda as a whole. I am going to fight domestic violence, gender imbalance, and child abuse. I am going to fight for children’s rights.”

There is plenty to distress us about the state of our Union and the state of our world. There are days when you just want to bury yourself under your blankets and stay there until the future is not so terrifying. And then Rebecca comes along and tells you that no matter how overwhelming it all is, she will do what it takes to step up. She tells you, lean forward. She shows you the infinite power of one to make a difference. If you think all a teacher does is drill content and ensure that children are “successful” (whatever that means!), THINK. AGAIN. It’s all about shifting attitudes, biases, prejudices, and habits, and this doesn’t come out of textbooks! Thanks to you, our partners and investors in education, we are able to work with young teachers like Rebecca and help her tap into her own potential to become a powerful changemaker in her community. Thank you for working with us to help Rebecca fight gender imbalance, domestic violence, and child abuse.Thank you for working with us in fighting for children’s rights.

Many Challenges-One Solution: Women/Girls in Uganda

Many Challenges-One Solution: Women/Girls in Uganda

stats-on-women-and-girls-in-uganda

Click to image to enlarge

In accordance with our mission to broaden the impact of education, ConnecTeach is working with teachers in Uganda to change social norms that abuse human rights and prevent progress. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

How your contribution helps:

How your contribution helps:

Partner with us to help teachers and their students.

Give one or invest monthly. Your support will transform entire communities!

$30 will provide books for a child.

$100 will provide teaching materials for one teacher a year.

$200 will provide classroom materials for 2 teachers.

$300 will provide online training for 2 teachers.

$2,000 will allow teacher leadership training and support for an entire school for a a year.

$4,000 will allow you to adopt a school of 900 students.

Escaped Kony, Embraced Teaching: David’s Story

Escaped Kony, Embraced Teaching: David’s Story

Escaped Kony, Embraced Teaching: David’s Story

Join our Global Giving Campaign

Join our Global Giving Campaign

We have been working fast and furious to launch a district-wide project in Iganga, Uganda. This project will provide leadership training, materials, and support to 1,300 teachers and 30,000 students so that they can have the tools to reduce the rates of HIV/AIDs (which has a current prevalence rate of 15.6%), eliminate domestic violence (which is currently over 70% for ever-married women ages 15-49), and increase the literacy rate (which is at 62% overall and 53% for females).

We have received a huge opportunity to fund this project through a partnership with Global Giving. In order to qualify for membership, we have to show that people are willing to support a project like this through a challenge known as the Accelerator.

If we can raise at least $5000 from 40 donors by June 30, we will be granted a membership, and our project will be featured on their website. Our project will be included in Employee Giving and Corporate Social Responsibility programs run by corporate partners like Microsoft, Ford, and Google. Please go to our Global Giving campaign page to donate and please share the link with friends, family, and colleagues. Just $10 will provide one teacher with classroom teaching and learning materials for one year, and $70 will provide access to our online training course (including much needed internet access) for 50 secondary students.

We can do this! We can give this community the tools and resources to make positive, lasting change happen! Think. Change. Join us!

“Voices from the Field: Education as a Human Right” by Dhara Naik

“Voices from the Field: Education as a Human Right” by Dhara Naik

In this age of development, it was stunning for me to learn that countless children around the world are being denied an education due to their gender, economic status, or they are living in a war torn country. According to UNICEF data, the number of illiterate youths (ages 15-24) is at 115 million, with the most concentrated in the least developed countries and 59% of the illiterate youths being women. Around the world, 91% of youths are literate, but is simply having the ability to read and write equate to education? Learning to read and write is necessary, but should not the goal be bigger than that? In teaching children to simply absorb information and repeat, what will they gain? It is the application, the practice, and the understanding of the “why” and “how” that makes information important. Critical thinking skills are the key to solving the world’s problems; understanding that if children are taught how to think, rather than what to think, is imperative. By doing this, they will gain the skills necessary to improve our communities, countries, and the world. However, if we leave children educationally handicapped, they will not be able to contribute to society, and the issues of poverty, pollution, and violence will continue. This is especially true in regions of the world that are at the highest disadvantage. Providing food aid or money to these regions is simple, but without eliminating the cause of the problems, we are just treating the symptoms rather than attacking the disease.

ConnecTeach is making an effort to treat this disease. By partnering with schools in underprivileged communities, students are learning critical thinking and problem solving skills, as well as learning what they can do to help their community. I was able to do my part by talking to students who were sharing their thoughts on the discussion boards in response to these lessons. In the brief time I spent reading and commenting on the students’ discussion posts, it became clear how a few skills and encouragement can give a student the motivation to address problems in their community and take initiative to generate improvements. For example, one student expressed how she made an effort to discourage her uncle from putting his son to work and rather, send him to school. She explained to him that an education was key to his son’s future and by putting him to work, he was depriving his son of the ability to build an improved life for himself. Her belief in the value of education and, additionally, her drive to bring that realization to her uncle, was exciting. With students like her learning how to reason, finding solutions, and implementing what they already know within their own community, it is obvious that a higher education gives a student the ability to change the world. Although this is just one response and one story, if we multiply the access to this kind of education the impact will be clear.

Though my contribution to these students seems small, I was able to encourage and praise students who were putting in great effort despite the challenges they face. My role in ConnecTeach did not require me to put my life on hold, give up my life savings, or put in much commitment. ConnecTeach is one of many organizations committed to promoting education in an effort to cure one of the diseases of the world, but they require support.  If we all create or recognize roles for ourselves, no matter how big or small, the solution will come about more effectively. It is purely a matter of taking responsibility for the future and realizing that, regardless of the conflicts around the world, we will win or lose together.

Empowering children through education and critical thinking skills is the cure to the diseases that are plaguing our world. We all should be remembered for providing the solutions, rather than the problems. Therefore, it is necessary for government officials, students, CEOs, teachers, scientists, parents, and anyone who values the future of their country or their world, to support education, wherever they are and especially in the places that are the most burdened. While the inequalities of the world may not directly affect you or do not seem prevalent in your country, that does not indicate their absence around the world. There are still people living without clean water, sleeping with empty stomachs, and suffering from treatable diseases and the solution to all of these inequalities is EDUCATION.

ConnecTeach Speaker Series: Jolly Okot

ConnecTeach Speaker Series: Jolly Okot

JOLLY OKOT

Activist and Producer of The Rescue: The Story of Joseph Kony’s Child Soldiers

Please join us at ConnecTeach World Headquarters to hear Jolly Okot’s inspiring story.

March 20, 2017, 6 – 8 p.m.

8411, Sterling St., Irving, TX 75063

Donations gratefully accepted.

“The change people want to see
in Africa starts with empowering
women…Education is the vehicle
of hope and the instigator of
lasting change.”
— Jolly Okot

 

Jolly Okot has dedicated her life to improving the lives of women in Northern Uganda.

She believes nothing is more powerful than education and
has shared her inspiring story worldwide—from high school
auditoriums to the oval office, Influencing the lives of all
who listen.

By providing women with employment, empowerment and education, Jolly is giving Northern Uganda the kind of hope that will last for generations upon generations.

The Difference We Make

Usha in Hope Foundation Kannagi Nagar describes how Connecteach has made a difference in her teaching and the lives of her students.