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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Nursery curriculum missing

It is a great sunny midmorning. At Aga Khan Nursery School, kids run up and down, going down the slides and pushing old car tyres happily. As I watch from outside the fence, I signal to the teacher how beautiful it is to see little ones happy.
Yes, they truly enjoy it, she says. Due to poor study curricula, poor hygienic conditions, insecurity and lack of facilities, in many nursery schools, teachers were not willing to talk. The few, who did had a dependable curriculum for most working parents who would love to enlist their children for early childhood education.
Children's Corner Junior School (CCJS) Pre-Primary and Primary School is well staffed to give kids a head-start to play and learn with other children. Its curriculum starts at 8:00 am when kids enter class.
According to the caretaker Ms Josephine Laja when children report to the classroom, she greets them and asks what they did when they reached home. Did you play? Did you sing to Mummy and Daddy? What is your teacher's name? What did you see while coming to school? How many days are in a week?
"This oral lesson is meant to develop infant's skills such as speaking, listening, concentration, and answering questions well. It also builds teamwork when children respond as a group. They liven up and feel at home," she says.
The nusery has well-planned classes that include the lesson of news, where a child stands up to tell a story. I entered the class and witnessed as a very young boy narrated a sweet story.
"My name is Joseph Lubega. When I was coming to school, I saw a white car. It was beautiful. That is the end of my story." When he finished, his classmates said, "Thank you for the story" and clapped thunderously.
Laja says that oftentimes, children are beaten at home: "The news lesson offers them a chance to share their troubles. It gives them the joy when peers listen and feel for them. Soon they become happy and forget about their troubles."
Also children enjoy reading, writing and counting. They are taught to chant and memorize the alphabet, to match numbers and objects, and to sing nursery rhymes. Indeed, all nurseries, Education Forum visited had decorated classrooms. Pictures of teddy bears, art works, dinosaurs cats, rabbits, trees, balls, plus numerals 1-100, letters a-z, cartoons, and other kiddish designs pasted all over walls in multiple colours.
The Headmistress of CCJS Ms Teopista Mukupe says, "We model our curriculum to help kids develop a strong sense of self-esteem by encouraging them to help one another."
Ms Resty Muzibibi the Principal Education Officer primary and pre-primary said: "Pre-primary curriculum has been in operation for the last ten years, though most of the nursery schools have not been using it. However, an up to date curriculum is being developed by the National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC)."
In most nurseries, kids are divided into baby class and the top class. After two years, they are ready to join primary school. Unfortunately, many nursery schools lack clean environment, enough space, play materials for kids, trained nursery school teachers, clean toilets, and transportation vans.
Private educators say there is need to change the dire situation. Ms Nora Mugonyi who is the head mistress of Child Study Centre, a research centre for early childhood degree courses at the School of Education Makerere University says an academic approach is not good for kids.
"Children learn more through playing, seeing and interacting with others. Sometimes parents push them too far, that's wrong. Pre-school needs to be fun to shape positive attitude towards school," says Mugonyi who has been in the nursery business since 1970.
She laments, "We don't have a government curriculum for nursery schools and this pulls us back."
Godwin Muhwezi Bonge contributed to this story. Published in Daily Monitor, April 4, 2005