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The Ota Initiative Blog

Sixth Program Brings New Challenges, New Rewards

roup leaders present the stories they wrote during the group leadership seminar. These fictional stories explore scientific topics from Ota's syllabus and will be read to students during the program.

I am writing you all with the wonderful news that Ota’s SIXTH program is underway! We have officially now been offering school break programming in Kayanga for three years. Thank you to everyone who has helped Ota to thrive and reach this milestone. Our program began last week with a three-day training session for our group leaders. For those who are new to our blog, every program we hire five local youth to assist with the program. They are called group leaders because each one is assigned a group of five students to oversee and perform activities with. The head teacher leads classroom-wide lessons and discussions, and students then break off into these small groups for hands-on science experiments and art projects. Not only does this structure give our students more personalized attention that then accelerates their learning, but it also allows us to employ local youth, thus developing their leadership skills and providing them with a source of income to help pay for school. To prepare the group leaders for this role, we run a training seminar before each program. Our head teacher Pontian reported that the group leader training went smoothly this year and the participants emerged ready and enthusiastic to begin teaching. This summer’s training session particularly focused on teambuilding as two of our veteran group leaders were unable to return and we had to recruit two new youths to work with us. One of our group leaders had a scheduling conflict and another is attending a three-month military training. While this training is not mandatory, many youth participate after graduating high school because it is seen as a sign of good citizenship and supposedly looks good on college and job applications. While we will miss these familiar faces, it is exciting to be able to work with some new youth.

The training seminar concluded Friday, and then Monday morning arrived. Our students entered into the Ota classroom once again, but several of them were missing. A few days before our program’s start, the government had announced that students in certain grades had not been able to cover all of the required topics and mandated that they return to school for additional instruction over the school break. This meant that 10 of our 25 registered students were suddenly unable to attend our program because they instead had to return to school. I was a bit flustered when Pontian relayed this information to me, but he assured me that there was a lot of interest in Ota within the local community and that he would easily be able to find 10 new students to fill these spots. Monday afternoon, Pontian began making phone calls and visiting parents, and sure enough, Tuesdaymorning 10 new students showed up to class. What could have proven to be a disastrous start to the program instead turned into a wonderful sign of just how valued and how in-demand our program is within Kayanga. Our 15 returning students and 10 new students are now engaged in a week of intensive English learning, with a focus on describing ongoing actions. I’ll be sure to write next week with more news on students’ English learning and other exciting program updates. For now, thank you again for your support, and enjoy your weekend!

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