"I used to dread speaking in public" noted Katende Stephen – a Fellow with Building Tomorrow and an Education Leader under the STIR Education Teacher Changemaker Movement.
Katende Stephen, aged 25 and formerly a Banker, shocked his friends when he resigned from his job to join a Fellowship programme under Building Tomorrow. He, alongside his nine colleagues, came on board when STIR Education and Building Tomorrow had entered a partnership to increase teacher motivation through empowering them to become Changemakers by joining a Teacher Changemaker Network. As part of this programme, teachers go through a three year planned journey through which they enhance their professional mindsets namely motivation, self-efficacy, resilience and growth mindset and further strengthen their professional skills such as problem solving, micro-innovating, reflective practice, collaboration and influencing. As a network of teachers passionate about improving their classroom practices and culture, teachers undergo a learning improvement cycle. They collaboratively identify a barrier to learning in their classroom, create a low cost solution to address it, implement and reflect on the changes it is creating, update their solution and finally measure the impact that it has created in the classroom.
Stephen manages a network comprising of 18 teachers who are from four schools within the rural district of Lwengo in the central region of Uganda. He expresses his pride in joining a network of education professionals working hand in hand with teachers to find solutions that can lead to better learning in their classrooms and schools. “Every time I visit schools and enter classrooms, it gives me a very wide smile – especially when I see learning materials that are engaging,” noted Stephen. I love seeing children thinking hard to find answers to questions on charts (displayed in their classrooms) as it triggers their critical thinking. He further confesses seeing children's reading skills improve as a result of teachers creating solutions (micro-innovations) to their reading skills such as creating reading corners. “My network schools introduced visitation days as an initiative to enhance parental engagement in children's learning, a result of STIR Education Teacher Changemaker Network. This has resulted to parents providing adequate scholastic materials to their children- which was not the case previously. The outcome has been better learning as each learner has materials to use in the classroom,” explained Stephen.
Not only have the teachers and learners been the only beneficiaries of this program, he too witnesses great change in himself. As an Education Leader, STIR Education has developed my capacity through equipping me with leadership skills that are very critical in this 21st Century. I have developed creative facilitation skills, coaching skills, building and sustaining a movement, having empowerment conversations among others. Facilitating the teacher Changemaker Networks has boosted my personal confidence especially in public speaking. I have gone to places that I never dreamt of. One key opportunity I am proud of was when I was shortlisted among the top five candidates in the World Bank blog for development competition on how to boost youth opportunities in East Africa. The skills that I gained from STIR Education training institutes helped me make a very good presentation to a panel of more than eight experts. As a result, I won a fully paid trip to Washington DC TV to attend the World Bank spring meetings in April 2016.
I am proud to have known STIR and I am working so hard to support learners to return and stay in school. With my colleague, Daisy Naluwugge we have started a program-Restoring dignity Uganda with a focus on fighting stigma in girls and promoting hygiene management during menstruation.