Below the beautiful ranges of Mount Moroto lies Musupu village, carefully tucked away like a secret.
The picturesque backdrop of the ranges, covered in lush green vegetation, provides a much-needed break from the scorching sun, the current predominant weather conditions in Karamoja sub-region.
I walk towards a group of adults huddled around two trees, a small blackboard stationed in front of them. An instructor takes them through the five vowels, scribbled on the board in both English and Nga’Karimojong, the local language.
While a normal classroom is expected to have chairs or benches, this class makes do with the crawling roots of two trees, as well as small Karimojong stools. An old woman, presumably in her late 60s, listens carefully as the “teacher” I later find out is 26-year-old John Bosco Lokut switches from English to arithmetic.
A quick session of subtraction takes over. I notice that the students hurry to collect small stones, which they later use to count and calculate the numbers. Fifteen minutes later, I join Lokut, dressed in a green T-shirt, navy blue trousers and sandals made out of tyres, for a conversation.
Lokut is one of two teachers providing functional adult literacy and numeracy classes to 33 individuals in Musupu village, Rupa sub-county in Moroto, since October 3, 2016.
TWICE A WEEK
With support from Samaritan Purse, a non-governmental organization, a Christian humanitarian aid organization with operations in Karamoja, the classes are conducted twice a week, Wednesday and Friday. The organization provides the teachers’ chairs and tables, the chalk board, chalk and books to use.
The class currently has 33 students, 18 of whom are women.
“The aim of these classes is to help the people get basic literacy and numeracy skills. We have so many projects brought here by NGOs and yet people are unable to write their names or even sign forms. Others cannot read their children’s books or hospital forms. That is our ultimate goal,” an excited Lokut tells me.
Lokut is an orphan - he lost both parents when he was seven years old. His relatives took him in and paid his tuition through his primary school until he joined Mopusa Secondary School in Katanga, Moroto in 2008. And then it all stopped.
“My relatives told me that there was no more money; so, I decided to sit home. I am the only child of my parents; so, I had no one to turn to for help,” Lokut says.
In the midst of the interview, he occasionally glances at the students as another teacher, Benedicto Abura, takes his turn at teaching. After about 15 minutes, Abura stops teaching, giving me opportunity to also speak to him. He had the opportunity to study in Nalakas primary school in Kaabong district.
He later went to Pajule Technical School in Pader district, where he specialized in bricklaying and concrete practice for three years until 2011.
“When I returned to Moroto, I was employed at ASB, a German organization, where we were constructing rainwater jars. Later, I joined the Institute for International Cooperation and Development to construct water catchments in Musupu village,” Abura narrates.
He was the site foreman and did work until mid-last year, when he was promised another project to extend water into communities. As he waited for the project to commence, Samaritan Purse moved around Musupu, sensitising women about health and nutrition under Functional Adult Literacy.
Later, the same programme was extended to the men, who also sought teachers. Consequently, Abura and Lokut were chosen and trained in functional adult literacy implementation.
In 1992, the ministry of gender started the Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) programme to teach non-literate youth and adults aged 15 and above in basic reading, writing and numeracy integrated with practical knowledge and skills.
On top of English and arithmetic, the duo teach hygiene, the value of education and food storage as well as peace-building in the communities in light of past violence in the sub-region, among other topics.
“We are now using the skills we got in the training to teach the students in agriculture and health practices. We have actually seen a great change in the villages because we also monitor them in their homes,” Abura says.
The class accommodates learners from Musupu, Aprishino, Nakilore, Lomunyan, Kirion, Lukwachom and Kailakol villages. The numbers, however, keep changing every week as some members miss classes due to commitments in their gardens and animal farms.
The learners are only given exercises, as they wait for tests from the sub-county leaders, who will assess their skills and recommend them to be integrated into the government education structures.
Veronica Lokeris, one of the learners is ecstatic about the programme. With a big smile, Lokeris says the learning has greatly improved her reading and counting skills.
“I can now help my children to read and calculate numbers. Out of my seven children, three are in school, including one in secondary school. I can also calculate my profits earned from the vegetables I grow in my garden,” Lokeris says.
For their efforts, Lokut and Abura are paid a monthly allowance of Shs 100,000 by Samaritan Purse.
“We prefer to be paid an allowance because if the money is banked, there are so many taxes that will be deducted. But we are happy with our pay,” Abura tells me, with a contented look on his face.