Ritah Finds Her Voice

Written by
Dan Wasirwa
Published on
September 29, 2022 at 4:19:00 PM PDT September 29, 2022 at 4:19:00 PM PDTth, September 29, 2022 at 4:19:00 PM PDT

Ritah was shy. 

That’s not terribly uncommon for 12-year-old girls—it’s a sensitive age. But for Ritah, it posed a problem in the classroom. She wasn’t comfortable answering questions when her teacher called on her, and she couldn’t bring herself to raise her hand to ask questions of her own. Slowly and quietly, she fell behind in school.

“I used to be shy and could not speak in public. I feared to read and answer questions in class and this affected my performance,” Ritah explains. As a Grade 6 student at Wolukyera Primary School in Uganda, she was expected to participate in class. Her ability to read, especially, suffered. 

But Ritah wasn’t unique. Many of her classmates also struggled to learn to read. They laced support at home—in the face of extreme poverty, education is often undervalued by struggling parents.They also needed more support in the classroom than their overworked, under-resourced teacher, Mr. Foozi, could offer. 

That’s when FH Uganda stepped in with a helping hand. They supported teachers in the area by helping implement regular reading assessments. They also started study clubs in the schools for the students. Many of these clubs focus on reading and public speaking, giving students a safe place to ask their questions and building their confidence to make their voices heard. 

Even though she was shy, Ritah wanted to learn. She signed up right away!

“When FH started organizing debates I joined the debating club and started reading in assembly. This gave me confidence. Now I feel good and comfortable to read before people. I even take readings in church,” — Rita

Having mixed-age classrooms makes reading in front of others even more intimidating!

With a little bit of encouragement and coaching, Ritah flourished in FH’s afterschool clubs. 

In the reading contest FH organized at Rongoro Primary School, Ritah read a story fluently in both English and a local language—how many of us could do that? And she came out on top. As the winner of the contest, Ritah received a generous prize of books, pens, pencils, and other gifts. 

And Ritah’s not the only student benefitting from afterschool clubs and educational support. Madam Irene, one of the teachers trained by FH in early reading techniques, explains: “With this invaluable contribution from FH, our school has embraced the FH methods of supporting learners through formative assessments and reading in class. [Before], our school did not have debates and reading competitions, but with FH’s support, now our children can read and debate in public. This has promoted vocabulary, fluency, and confidence among the learners. Ritah is a promising child.”

Rita and her teacher.

FH Uganda also helped Ritah’s school launch a lunch program and a school garden. They provided seeds and mobilized parents to contribute food to the school. Increased enrolment is expected as children will now have a meal during the day provided by the school. 

Ritah is proud of her newfound voice and is using her achievements to help others: “My life changed greatly in academics—now I have the confidence to answer and ask questions in class. I am a member of the debating club and encourage my friends to join the clubs in the school. My teachers like me and I help my friends to achieve together.”

Mr. Foozi, Ritah, and her grandmother Claire.

In addition to practicing reading and public speaking in their clubs, students also learn about child rights, basic health and hygiene, and the value of academic excellence. Through awareness campaigns and forming relationships with caregivers, FH has successfully begun to change the minds of parents in Bwikhonje Village regarding the value of education. As a result, they now send their children—especially daughters—to school instead of holding them back at home to work. 

“I feel greatly happy and love FH programs for supporting our learning!” Ritah exclaims.

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