As it is right now, the Magaras are glad they took the almost unheard of decision at the time, to home-school their four children.
“They have turned out quite well,” their father, Dr James Magara of Jubilee Dental Services observes, “And they are not social recluses as people told us they would be, but the very opposite. They relate very well with adults; they respect them and are confident around them.”
But the choice to homeschool their children were not born out of excitement or a sheer need to be different.
“In 2001, we started getting frustrated by the kinds of values our children were picking up. Two of our children were in primary school then. A friend who had home schooled his children for 10 years suggested it to us as an option but we were quite reluctant because we did not want to be stuck midway if we jumped off,” Dr Magara explains their reluctance at the time.
“There were hardly any Ugandans doing it other than the missionaries,” he adds.
To be very certain and clear-minded, the couple agreed that Mrs Magara visit a school in Zambia that was using a curriculum which could be used in a home-school. As a result of that visit, they were thoroughly convinced it’s what they wanted for their children, so they took the leap.
The school in Zambia was using a curriculum called ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) and being born again Christians, this suited them well. This curriculum is linked to an examining body in the UK which awards the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE). After a two-week training in Nairobi, where a parent is guided on how to manage the system, the Magaras were ready.
“Everyone thought we were crazy to think that we could teach children of different ages at the same time,” Dr Magara reminisces.
Nevertheless, the couple was determined and within six months, they got positive feedback from two adults. People noted a change in their children’s character, especially their ability to express themselves more confidently. Subsequently, more and more parents picked up interest in homeschooling.
At the moment, their first born is set to join the University of Cape Town in South Africa, one of the top rated universities in Africa, where he has been accepted for a degree course of Bachelor of Architectural Studies.
The dental surgeon explains that when their son was about to finish high school (Uganda’s equivalent of Advanced Level), he sat for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which he passed quite well.
A child though needs to be given the opportunity to socialise with peers to learn how to deal with others apart from their family, so the Magaras decided to enroll their children with Kampala Kids’ League (KKL) to sharpen this ability. Neighbours and social events with other home-schooling children also came in handy to polish this skill further.
Dr Magara admits that the system is obviously more expensive than what a parent would pay in a UPE school but may not be quite as expensive as the combined cost of tuition, uniforms, transport and other scholastic needs of a child in an average private school in Uganda.
The beauty of this system, according to this proud father, is that a parent does not need to have formal training as a teacher because, unlike your usual school curriculum where a teacher is the source of knowledge, a parent just comes in to guide the child. And when a child has learnt how to read and write, he can go through his work and do tasks on his own, with the parent only serving as a guide or learning facilitator.