Schools refresh Humanist Vision
Before the start of the new school year, staff at each of the Humanist Schools currently supported by UHST, came together for Humanist Ethos workshops. These convivial workshops reminded staff of the Humanist principles underpinning the schools and the implications for teaching, learning and general conduct.
Since Covid struck in February 2020 schooling has been disrupted. When the focus is on survival, it is easy to forget the longer-term aims of a school. Our plans to bring together representatives from all 15 Humanist schools in Uganda in a 3rd Humanist School Conference in January had to be postponed again. This time by an Ebola outbreak which closed schools and led to movement restrictions. Many schools had lost staff during Covid and new staff had to be recruited who knew nothing of Humanism and its implications for schooling.
At the workshop teachers were reminded of the Guidance not Violence approach to school behaviour management. Physical and verbal violence are not tolerated among students and staff in Humanist schools. Yet, teachers need to be made aware of alternative ways to ensure appropriate conduct. Each school operates a democratic system of consultation through class prefects, house representatives and a student-staff council. Grievances can be aired and dealt with through discussion, empathy and counselling. Each school has a Humanist Counsellor, who plays a pivotal role and parents and families are consulted in particularly difficult cases.
A fundamental aim of Humanist Schools is to empower children to become questioning and free-thinking individuals. This has implications for teaching and learning. The new Uganda national curriculum has brought a very welcome shift away from knowledge-based examinations, which encouraged learning by rôte. The new competency-based curriculum requires children to conduct enquiries in groups and to evaluate and synthesise information from different sources. This change fits in well with the Humanist Schools, which do their best to encourage children to be sceptical of received wisdom, to have a questioning approach, to make up their own minds in the light of the current state of knowledge and to be prepared to change their minds when contradictory evidence comes to light.
To support this approach, UHST is supporting teachers and learners by increasing book provision, creating Library & Information Centres and learning spaces, and expanding computer provision and access to the internet. The schools are set to become even more vibrant places as the new curriculum moves up the schools from Senior 1.