GACS (Golman African Children School)
GACS, our first project, is a primary school that accommodates 130 students in Kamuli, Uganda. Our mission is to provide children equal access to a quality education that will enable them to make choices, seek opportunity, and live a productive, enriched life.
GACS proves that it is possible to give even the poorest children in the most remote villages a chance to go to school. As of August 2008, GACS has enrolled fifty students ages 3 to 7 years: baby class (3-4 years old), top class (5-6 years old), and Primary 1 (7 years old). We also rented a two-roomed building in the rural village of Nawanyago, equipped with school supplies and furniture and hired and trained 3 teachers, a headmistress, and a school director. In 2009, we were able to add more students to our roster and purchase new uniforms. In 2010, GACS moved into an eight-roomed building in Kamuli to accommodate even more students. We also were able to hire an additional teacher, buy books to begin a school library, and purchase two bicycles for teachers, administrators, and parents to use, and provide one meal a day to students. In 2011, we invested in professional development for teachers, hired an instructional coach, purchased play equipment, painted the building, built a fence around the school yard, supplied new uniforms, and offered 2 balanced meals a day. Classes have been in session since August 2008.
In addition to maintaining our current operation, our goal for the 2011- 2012 school year is to build a permanent school building with running water and electricity. With a larger building and more land, we will be able to accommodate more students, add more grade levels, and grow food. We also need to hire and train additional teachers, purchase more classroom furniture, and increase the availability of technology.
We aim for sustainability and would like to use local materials for the school building, rainwater collection systems for water, solar panels for energy, and land for farming to sustain the school and community. The cost of an acre of land is $2500. In aligning with the FUNDAEC principles, we aim to teach kids how to increase the food supply in their area. The curriculum would include agricultural lessons on growing food, preparing it free from harmful bacteria, marketing it, and selling it at fair market prices. We need to invest in training both teachers and the community.
GACS uses the FUNDAEC teaching principals (see below) to prepare students for life-long learning. During the school day, the students learn reading, writing, math, science, English, hygiene and nutrition in their native language, Lusoga. We think that certain needs must be met for learning to take place, so GACS provides the students with breakfast and lunch each day and a clean uniform. We also believe that parental and community involvement is essential for student success. Parents meet with teachers and the school director to discuss expectations and goals for their students, while community members build classroom furniture. We aim to foster and expand this partnership. We build learning communities that work.
The school director, Masaidio Kalenga, oversees daily operations, administrative duties, student progress, and the school budget. The three school teachers have received training in FUNDAEC. They also attend on-going professional development in Kampala, Uganda.
The teaching principles GACS has adopted are based on FUNDAEC, the acronym in Spanish for "The Foundation for the Application and Teaching of the Sciences." FUNDAEC was created in 1974 by a group of scientists and professionals who were trying to find a more appropriate role for science, technology, and education in the development of rural areas. The two main programs are the Tutorial Learning System (SAT), a secondary level educational system used by over 25,000 students throughout the Americas, and the University Center for Rural Well-Being (CUBR), in which GACS bases it's curriculum. The curriculum aims to develop in its students capabilities in five main fields: mathematics, science, language and communication, technology, and service to the community. "The central idea is that the traditional educational system is not applicable for rural inhabitants," said Dr. Gustavo Correa, the director of FUNDAEC and one of the program's primary authors. People who graduate from high school simply don't have the skills needed to thrive in the countryside, and they didn't have other options but to leave." The original group of FUNDAEC became convinced that only when appropriate structures and a systematic learning process with access to global knowledge, were in place, could rural populations throughout the world interact in equal terms with others and cease to be the objects of the plans (beneficent or harmful) of other individuals and institutions. FUNDAEC analyzes problems of poverty and social disintegration bearing in mind this acute crisis of identity and develops its programs as contributions to a far more exalted vision of the human being, instead of simply layering a few basic rural vocational skills, such as animal husbandry or soil chemistry, onto a traditional urban education that emphasizes an academic, often theoretical approach to mathematics, literature and science.
The development concepts adopted by FUNDAEC have been described in terms of two elements: knowledge and structure, both corresponding to processes of individual and social life in a rural region. It has succeeded in developing in the students specific skills and the capacity to deal with abstract concepts within the same set of educational activities. A definite accomplishment of the textbooks of FUNDAEC is their ability to maintain the interest of the students in parallel concrete and abstract activities-in the skills for raising chickens, for example-, and the study of animal physiology, or in actions leading to the establishment of a village store and in the analysis of abstract social and economic theories. In general, constant reference to the real problems of the rural communities has helped everyone to place things in perspective; prejudices and a false scale of prestige have slowly disappeared and a single purpose of learning what is needed to bring about social change has taken their place.
Some basic principles of FUNDAEC:
*Consider the people as potential resources, not as problems.
*Develop human potential through a proper education that acknowledges and promotes human nobility.
*Work for a development that is not conceived as "Modernization."
*Engage in the search for pertinent knowledge.
*Avoid offering "pre-packaged" solutions.
*Recognize the need for endogenous structures in the region that would connect it to corresponding external structures.
Our School Director
Kalenga was born in Goma, the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1977. He moved to Uganda in 1998 and attended Kampala International University, where he studied Information Technology. After he graduated in 2006, he moved to Kamuli in eastern Uganda to learn how to use education to promote the well-being of the community. GACS was born through interaction with people in the community after realizing that children were being left at home while their parents worked.
Olive was born in Uganda in 1979. She joined Gayaza primary school in 1986 and Namasagali secondary school in 1987. She joined her parents in Swaziland where her dad was a lecturer at the university of Swaziland and her mother a teacher at a school in Swaziland. She volunteered at the same school for a year before going to South Africa to further her studies at Midrand College where she studied Business Administration. Her family moved back to Uganda in 2005 and two years later she met her lovely husband, Kalenga. When he shared his dreams about his love for the education of children, she could not hesitate to give him a hand because she also love teaching children.
"Teaching children is a dream that I had right from my childhood. My dad is a teacher, so I think I developed the desire from him. I was so happy when Kalenga contacted me to teach at GACS. I had just completed my preschool course from the college when he called me to teach."
"I am a mother of so many children. I started teaching when I was young, although I did not get a certificate from any college. However, my experience with children is an asset that I have. I thank GACS for its continuous support to these children."
"I am a mother with 3 children and a teacher by profession. I have always loved children. GACS is not far from my home, so I do not need to walk long distances to go to my place of work."
Michael was taught by our School Director who says, "Michael Musasizi has great potential."
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