May 18, 2024

Asiimwe Moved From House To House Helping Her Learners

(This article was first published in the New Vision on June 29, 2022)

By Abdulkarim Ssengendo

When President Yoweri Museveni closed the schools in March 2019 to contain the coronavirus disease, Brenda Asiimwe, a teacher of English and literature at Nyakayojo Secondary School in Mbarara City, thought they would probably reopen after a few weeks.

However, as the President extended the lockdown in his subsequent national addresses, giving no hint of when schools would reopen, it occurred to Asiimwe that her learners would remain at home longer than she anticipated. It became clear to her that the future of her learners was in jeopardy. She received numerous calls from students asking about when learning would resume before an idea came to her mind.

Asiimwe approached the school administration and proposed that all teachers develop instructional materials for her to distribute to learners around Nyakayojo. The school facilitated the teachers to print and photocopy the materials which were handed to Asiimwe, who lived on the institution’s premises during the lockdown.

Asiimwe said she moved from house to house distributing the materials and encouraging parents and learners to remain hopeful that schools would reopen.

While they looked forward to the reopening of the schools, Asiimwe encouraged the learners to observe the public health measures and avoid early sex which could result in pregnancies and infections.

For households she could not reach, Asiimwe encouraged parents and learners she met over social messaging platforms such as WhatsApp to pick the materials from the school’s caretaker at the gate.

She explained that the school provided her with airtime and internet data for the phone to keep in touch with students. Asiimwe created groups on social messaging sites such as WhatsApp, which she also used to respond to questions from students and keep them focused on education.

But this came with challenges. The facilitation provided by the school was not sufficient to allow her reach as many learners as she wanted and some students were not online every day due to insufficient internet data. Under these circumstances, she did everything within her power to reach as many learners as possible.

Asiimwe interacting with some of her learners as she counsels and guides them

Door To Door

When schools reopened, Asiimwe noticed that some students had not returned to school. She then contacted their parents and took up with the administration cases of learners who had not returned to school due to financial challenges.

“I was able to do this because I keep a record of my students and the contacts of their parents,” she added.

In addition, she conducted door-to-door visits urging parents to send children back to school. In her capacity as a facilitator with Strong Minds – an organisation working to increase awareness around mental health in schools, she conducted mental health sessions for teachers and students during and after the lockdown.

She currently conducts mental health awareness sessions for teachers and students on Wednesdays at the school. This, she said, helped teachers and learners to deal with the depression during the lockdown.

Aware that many parents still feel uncomfortable discussing menstrual hygiene and sex, Asiimwe said, during each lesson, she discusses these topics and the dangers associated with engaging in early sex such as contracting AIDS.

Asiimwe also shares information on sex during general paper lessons with A ‘level students. She revealed that she is currently encouraging the school to integrate sex education into teaching because the girls who became pregnant during the lockdown did not know the implications of unprotected sex.

Online Learning

In terms of innovations, Asiimwe has set up an online facility that allows students to access learning resources in the library. This and the virtual learning, she added, have exposed students to ICT and teamwork.

In terms of life skills, she encourages students to set goals and work as a team to solve problems. This, according to her, has promoted teamwork and improved and communication among students.

She encourages students to show kindness and listen to one another regardless of their diverse backgrounds. These, she said, are important soft skills everyone needs to live in harmony with others. As patron of the school’s debate and writers’ club, Asiimwe reaches out to the school’s alumni through social media to participate in debate. This, she explained, has injected fun into the competitions and allowed the alumni to remain interested and informed of developments at the school.

To improve academic performance of the school, Asiimwe conducts remedial lessons outside of the official teaching time to allow her to cover the syllabus early.

“I can do this because I live at the school,” she added.

She advises teachers to approach their profession with integrity and embrace the digital age and continue seeking new knowledge.

Asiimwe marking her learners work. She trains learners in life skill

Who Is Asiimwe?

Asiimwe is the second born in a family of six. She went to Lypa Integrated School in Mbarara district for her primary education between 2002 and 2008.

She attended Mary Hill High School in Mbarara between 2009 and 2011 before joining Cleveland High School, also in Mbarara, where she completed her O’ Level in 2012.

From 2013 to 2014, Asiimwe attended Masheruka Girls Secondary School in Sheema district for her A’ Level.

She completed her bachelor’s degree in arts with education – majoring in English and Literature – in 2018. In the same year, she started her first teaching job at Nyakayojo SS

What Others Say About Asiimwe

Geoffrey Tumwebaze, the school headteacher: Asiimwe goes out of her way to help her students. She deals with students and teachers professionally and discharges her duties diligently.

Dr Medard Katonera chairman of the school’s board of governors: Asiimwe is one of our most innovative and brilliant teachers. She has good interpersonal skills for dealing with students and counselling them. Asiimwe has set an example worth emulating by her professional colleagues as she goes beyond classroom teaching to help learners develop cognitive abilities and soft skills to work in teams and live in harmony with one another. She is outstanding and makes constructive contributions to students’ and teachers’ welfare issues. She was very instrumental during the lockdown as she reached out to learners physically and digitally and encouraged teachers to continue helping students during that period.

Beatrice Nahurira, the director of studies: Asiimwe is a creative and hard-working teacher, who spends most of her time with students. She’s the one who started the students’ writers and debatings clubs and you will find her working even without supervision.

Johnson Namanya, the deputy head teacher in charge of academics: Asiimwe has revamped the department of English and Literature.

Daphine Ainembabazi, a Senior Four student: Asiimwe is always punctual and helpful. She is smart, inspirational and offers us hope and counsel whenever we need.

Collins Tumusiime, a Senior Six student: The study materials Asiimwe delivered to me and my classmates during the lockdown allowed us to carry on with studies while at home. Her lessons on mental health and sex education helped us to abstain from sex and survive depression.

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