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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gathering Perspective

God has been so good to us in the process of inviting two educational consultants to Christ School.  The idea for this process came from our field director during our regional team leader retreat in April, and after his HMA plans caught up with him the responsibility for the actual logistics fell to me.  Or rather, to the Spirit . . .who guided us via a scattering of emails to universities and church headquarters to the names of two men.  One is a professor of education at Uganda Christian University (and was a key author of the latest legislation regulating education in this country), and the other heads the Church of Uganda's Education office (which makes him responsible for five thousand primary and five hundred secondary schools).  Both have many many years of experience as teachers, as headmasters, as teachers of teachers.  It would be hard to imagine two more competent and connected consultants than the two we got!  Both are slightly older than us, established men with families and careers.  Yet both received Tim and I graciously back on the very first day of their internship in June when he bravely joined me on buses and bodas to search out the offices and make the arrangements.  Now almost two months later, the visits have occurred.  Each offered a slightly different perspective and style, and each will continue to give us unique insights and connections as we receive their written reports and lean on their wisdom.  But perhaps the unexpected thing:  it was enjoyable.  We can get so bogged down in the problems in front of our faces, in the discouragement of seeing the gap between reality and the ideal . . that it helps to have someone from outside, someone who knows what they are talking about, come in and ask questions and take notes and tour classes and interview parents and students and community leaders, and then conclude that CSB is the best school in the area, that the facilities place it in the top 15% of schools in Uganda, that the community feels blessed by the orphan sponsorship program, that the spiritual emphasis is palpable.  

There is work to be done.  A lot of it.  We need written policies in many areas, a standardized plan for the curriculum, better books.  We need to work out regulations for our boards, roles for the mission and the administration.  We need to reduce dependence on outside donations by increasing our political savvy when it comes to in-country grants, which could improve sustainability.  We need to pay teachers higher salaries, which might enable us to increase the professional level of our staff.  This will take time, years, though we can make a good start within the next year, the process of strengthening community ownership and internal accountability, will not happen overnight.  The fruition of stability will likely occur beyond the lifespan of any of the current missionaries.  Pray that new families ready to dedicate themselves to this vision, would begin to emerge.  Pray that God would lead us to excellent and godly Ugandan teachers and administrators, as well.  If there are people like these two men out there, then anything is possible!

And that is probably the greatest thing the consultants offered:  perspective.  This school has great potential.  The decade of work so far has borne fruit.  The problems we see are not unique, and those who have lived and worked in Uganda far longer than we have give us hope that it is worth the effort.  Pray for us to take the advice to heart, to consider bold change, to honor our commitments to the families of students, to strive for God's glory in this place.  As the teachers like to write on the bottom of exams . . the struggle continues.

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