|John Briefs Kikunda PS Parents Meeting|
John Ssenoga, the field coordinator of the Primary School Gardening Project, arranged to make his second visit to train Peer Group Educators (PGE) this week. The project is funded through the American Academy of Pediatrics, I-Catch program for international community pediatrics. Officially the project is not with Harvest Plus, which is disseminating bio-fortified crops of high iron beans and orange sweet potato in Uganda, but because we would like OSP and high iron beans reach school age children, we are doing our bit to promote them in our school gardens.
However when John arrives at Kikuda PS, the Parents and Teachers are holding a last minute, urgent meeting. They are very pleased to see John and ask him to tell them about the Gardening project. The parents are
overwhelmingly in support of the program. In fact they want to be more involved! They provide John with
information about traditional farming practices, traditional weaning and pest
control. Parents living close by and the
local Volunteer Health Worker (VHT), even offer to take care of the student's garden
over the holiday.
|Parents Meeting Packed|
|Parents Provide Farming Wisdom|
John when he tells me all this, “We should have involved them earlier.”
teacher in charge of the Peer Group at Kikunda PS, has been very enthusiastic but has had a number of problems with garden pests. He shows John around describing
the problems in detail. The local parents who are farmers say the problem is simple, the high iron beans and orange Sweet Potato
vines provided were planted too late. The
Peer Group Trainer who has come with John, is Avictas, a 3rd year Agriculture
student at Bishop Stuart University nearby. He concurs with the local
farmers. It seems project
communications were not clear and the teacher thought he was supposed to wait
for project staff to come before planting.
The parents request that they be allowed to "take the project to their homes". They want to grow high iron beans and orange sweet potatoes and start kitchen gardens. This is one of our hoped for outcomes. They tell us they can help us to lobby the
churches in the area for additional land for the school garden. We have been very lucky at all the schools to
have large areas set aside for the student gardens as well as generous offers of land from the nearby churches.
|Peer Educators Use Puppets and Hats for HEd|
beginning of the project, we had asked the designated teachers at each school to do things with us in a step-wise manner, but gardens of course have to be planted in season. Another lesson for us non-farmers in the
project, is that farmers till the land twice here. Once, about a month prior to planting, land is tilled in order
to turn under all the grass to let it decompose, Then a second digging is done to
turn the soil over at the time of planting. Lots of things for us to learn in a gardening
The aphids found on the beans
are usually handled by sprinkling them with ash (kashenda) which causes them to
die and fall off.
time at Kikunda because of a lengthy Parent’s Meeting to teach the Peer Group
Educators but John feels the contact and information has been invaluable for
the project. Planting was done on time
at Bushwere PS and all their crops are doing well.
|Avitas Teaches Head & Fingers Hygiene Song|
We have a
huge flock of Peer Group Educators, 176 in the four primary schools. All the schools have drawn their Peer Group
Educators from the four classes from Primary 3-6 and their classes are very
large. One of the classes has 90 students. As the
schools and the project hopes to reach all the school children, the teachers have
selected many PGEs. In in the two schools in Mwizi area,
Kikunda PS has 65 PGE and Bushwere PS has 36.
The other two primary schools are in Kibaare,
quite a ways from the Mwizi Schools so are seen on another day later in the
week.. At Kanyantura PS there are 40
with 36 at Kibaare PS. It will be a real
challenge to train all the PGE effectively, but the four Peer Group Trainers and our field coordinator are
going to give it their best.
|Snakes & Ladders on Rice Bag|
had received an extra bag of OSP vines because it was thought that the vines
were planted in small heaps and would not thrive. However the 1st crop looked surprisingly good even though the
heaps were small. The local VHT advises
the teacher to have the children collect and add manure to the heaps as the
potatoes continue to grow, so they are covered as they will begin to push upwards. The 2nd
crop of OSP vines have been planted on clay-like soil and were not doing so well, dry
around the base with leeching . Avitas
suggests manure also be added to this soil as well and instructs the students
set up composting bins nearby. There is
also time during the visits to Kibaare schools to train the PGE in Micronutrients such as is found in Vit A-enriched Orange
Sweet Potato and High Iron Beans. The sessions go well. John, Avitas and the teacher demonstrate to the PGEs how
to play Nutritional Snakes and Ladders.
The whole class gathers around on the large rice bag of the
Snakes and Ladders game. Two sets of die are given to each school but the teachers are happy we are also
encouraging them to continue to use their traditional method of throwing 6 split seeds determine the count from the number in which the cotyledons land facing up.
At Kibaare PS
the children are doing tests so it is not possible to do a training session
with them but John was able to tour the gardens and report that most are doing
well. One batch of OSP were planted in
clay-like soil and are not doing well but both schools in Kibaare will have
bumper crops of beans and be able to share with the parents.
|Kids Collect Water After School|
learning lessons as we go. We need to
meet with Parents Groups early and often and set up a Garden Advisory Committees with the teachers and parents. We need to schedule several non-training visits to each
school . And we are going to have to be very creative to
train so many Peer Group Educators effectively and well.
Photos: John Ssengo, Avitas