'What we do'
The Backup Structure
At every partner school, the structure includes:
Direct support to students. Educators with various areas of expertise offer direct individual support to the students. Since the overall awareness of learning challenges and the strategies to tackle them is rare, an intensive and continuous team training takes place. This training revolves around how to identify the learning challenge and its details, as well as how to support a student in finding ways to overcome this challenge as much as possible. Backup Uganda is exploring ways to combine this educational support with attention for mental health in general, and traumas in particular.
Teachers training. Backup Uganda believes that teachers are the key to success when it comes to supporting students with learning challenges. That is why we are developing a training for teachers that is focused on all aspects of learning challenges. This training includes theoretical insight, but the emphasis is on practical ways to support students that experience these challenges. Teachers learn how to detect learning challenges in students, who to refer these children to, and how to adapt their lessons in such a way that it facilitates their learning.
Awareness raising. For students with learning challenges, it is essential that their complicated learning processes are supported in their home environment. Parents can stimulate their children to practise the learning strategies that they have learned and help them with extra study material where possible. But, this does require them to be aware of what learning challenges are and what they can do to support their own children. Parents are invited to the schools for presentations, discussions and brainstorm sessions, which includes the dissemination of informative material. In addition, they are involved in all decisions made concerning the support offered to their children. They are also welcomed to observe the guidance sessions that Backup Uganda’s team offers their children.
To make this holistic approach possible, Backup Uganda brings team members to The Netherlands to train them in every aspect mentioned above. As ambassadors of Backup’s approach, they represent the organization in Uganda and train others to implement the approach.
Bringing an existing concept to another context comes with risks. (Northern) Uganda has its own complex history and culture. This is why Backup Uganda’s full projects will not be started until a detailed picture is sketched of what these projects will have to relate to. In December 2014, a scientific research has been kicked off with this very goal. The research is focused on what all stakeholders (students, parents/guardians, teachers, school management, local authorities) think about support that can be provided to students who experience learning challenges. This includes their experiences with different types of support so far. The results of this research will be combined with the experiences and results coming from the first pilot project, which runs from May – October 2016. Thorough evaluation will lead to the final design for Backup Uganda’s first full projects.
Here’s a peek into results so far! Based on interviews with education-based organizations, teachers, students, school management and district education officials, we have found that:
- In Northern Uganda, only 1 other organization pays attention to learning problems;
- Teachers would love to give their students more individual attention, but do not know how to do this. An important challenge is the large number of students in their classes;
- It is difficult to make a distinction between learning problems and a low quality of teaching.