After schools were closed, Solomon Kamukama had planned to travel back to Kamwenge, (Western Uganda) to reunite with his wife and one-year-old daughter whom he hadn’t seen for months when the disheartening news of the closure of public transport came in on the evening of March 25.
Though he had an option of using private means to get home, he instead chose to send ‘survival’ money home and stay in Nabutaka village, Butuntumula Sub-county in Luweero District where he stays while teaching at St. Kizito Primary School, Nabutaka, determined to help children in his community to continue learning.
After consulting with his support coach, he knew exactly what he had to do… a basic, but effective strategy for engaging learners within his reach in Nabutaka, regardless of which school they attend, or their class level.
“The first thing I did was to do home visits. I would move from house to house seeking to answer five essential questions…” Kamukama explains.
He wanted to find out: How many people were in each household? How many of these were school-going (at all levels)? In each household, was there anyone with a smartphone? How may households had a TV and/or radio? Is any of the parents/ guardians in each household educated (able to read and write) to help their learners continue learning?
In one and a half weeks, he had reached 56 homes. Shortly after he had finished that exercise, the government also announced it’s intentions to help children continue learning using radios and TV.
“From my simple survey, only two per cent of the households owned a TV, two per cent had smartphones and 21 per cent had radios. The remaining percentage didn’t have any.
But again, even those with radios and TVs, the parents didn’t know how to read and write, so I knew that it would be hard for these people to fully benefit from the government arrangement,” he notes and after asking parents to allow him, Kamukama embarked on a task of voluntarily teaching learners from 18 households that had allowed him to help them.
Making the rounds
The two households that had smartphones also had two learners in high school (S.6 and S.3). The best he could do for these was sending them learning materials via the phone but for all primary school learners, he drafted a time table allocating time for all households he had to teach, and he started moving from house to house, teaching.
“Firstly, I was educating all families about the health guidelines put in place by the government and by the first week, every home had at least a handwashing point,” he notes.
For him, it didn’t matter how many school-going children each family had, or their different classes. He allocated time to all the learners in every household.
“Some families, may have up to four school-going children, I teach them all depending on their classes. I move around with my materials and normally, we seat outside, considering social distancing and all other guidelines and we learn. I use materials from the school where I teach, spelling books, reading books, past papers, and other materials that my coach gave me and help the learners. Gradually, I got to know their different weaknesses - like reading and so, I would plan lessons to help them in those different areas. For those I leave exercises or papers, I give them time to accomplish these and then come back again, go through what they have done, mark them and make corrections together with them,” Kamukama explains.
Within the first month of doing this, he had held lessons from four to five times with every learner in their different households.
Later though, he got challenges when some community members reported him to the authorities that he was illegally teaching learners.
“I went and explained to the LC 1and 2 chairmen exactly what I was doing, and how I was going about my work and the fact that I was adhering to the health guidelines. The chairman LC1 then okayed me to continue with what I was doing.” he gladly says.
From morning up to 2 pm, he engages in agriculture, also considering that other families also do agriculture. He then uses time in the afternoon from 3-4 pm, to go in the household where he is supposed to go and teach the learners. So far, Kamukama is helping 30 learners in 18 households.
Kamukama studied from Kitonzi Primary School, Kitagwenda District, St. Theresa Vocational School Kitagwenda for O Level and thereafter to Kitagwenda High School, for his A-Level. He then went to Gulu University for a bachelors in Public Administration and to Kampala International University, Western Campus for Administrative Law.
But teaching has always been Kamukama’s passion right from the time he finished A-Level. Having gone to a government school for his primary education, he knew how hard the situation was like for learners to excel.
During his senior six vacation, he sought employment as a teacher at Mahyro Secondary School, teaching Economics and Geography. The papers he taught were highly passed, which gave him favour with the school. Even when he joined university, Kamukama always came back to teach at the same school during his holidays.
When he finished university, his teaching heart was not quenched and so, he didn’t look for any job outside teaching. He went back to Mahyro Secondary School but also taught part-time at St. Theresa Secondary School between 2017-2018.
Through a friend’s Facebook page, he learned about a teaching fellowship that could give him professional teaching training. This sounded like the very thing he needed and with support from his wife, he applied for the fellowship and was taken onboard.
After training with Teach for Uganda as a fellow in 2019, he was this year placed in Nabutaka to teach at St. Kizito Primary School, a government school in Nabutaka village where he currently is.