Kampala — Excitement rents the air together with a mood of expectation at the kick off of Uniting to Provide Literacy Instruction for Teachers (UPLIFT) literacy conference at Nakaseke Primary Teachers College (PTC).
The students walk around in small groups occasionally throwing anxious glances at the room we are organising for the day's programme.
This is the mood that engulfed Nakaseke Primary Teachers' College when part of the New Vision editorial team visited the college to conduct Newspaper in Education programme.
This workshop was part of a literacy conference organised by the U.S Peace Corps Volunteers associated with Nakaseke Core Primary Teachers College.
"In few minutes cut out the pictures of successful people from The New Vision newspapers you have."
This was the first activity given to the student teachers by New Vision Features Editor, Barbara Kaija. Prior to this group activity, she briefly delved into the scope of newspaper in education and how resourceful newspaper is in a classroom setting.
Newspaper in Education (NiE) is a global project operating in 60 countries. The pilot phase of this programme was launched in Uganda last year. So far several schools have successfully been reached especially within Kampala. Millions of teachers have carried out this activity and discovered that newspaper fits as a learning resource into classroom situation.
Research also reveals that newspaper is a 'current living textbook which provokes the learner's imagination and builds a reading culture.
When The New Vision took this educational tool to Nakaseke PTC, student teachers received the idea with enthusiasm. The three sessions were loaded with classroom activities and lively group discussions.
Students were asked to cut out pictures of personalities they considered as successful from the newspaper. The pictures were then pasted on plain paper with brief explanation why they thought the chosen person was a success.
As the student teachers worked in groups they realised that the activity built socialisation skills and brought the external world into the classroom. There were lively discussions accompanied by cutting and pasting. The students raked their brains in search for the right pictures in The New Vision newspapers.
The activity involving the pictures of needs and wants on the newspapers proved both interesting and controversial. The subjective individual lenses with which human beings view the world could have caused this. After pasting pictures of needs and wants cut from newspapers, different groups tussled it in argument in a bid to defend their choices. The argument proved futile over the mobile phone, which some groups classified as a need while to others it passed as a want.
Different newspaper pictures provoked different feelings and were interpreted differently. This in itself testifies to the flexibility of the newspaper as classroom learning tool.
The flexibility of newspaper in education is indeed limitless. The student teachers discovered that it could be tailored to meet the needs of all age groups, in all classes and in all subjects.
As a way of motivation, different star performers won themselves copies of the day's New Vision and T- shirts. The New Vision plans to expand this programme in a bid to reach more teachers in Uganda.
Its sole objective is to build up a literate and a reading generation. Building a strong reading culture however, takes more than embracing newspaper in the classroom. We must all get transformed so as to form a generation of readers.