In 2007, the Kimanya-Ngeyo Foundation for Science and Education adopted the Program for Social Action (PSA) to support secondary students in Uganda. The program seeks to develop the capacity of youth to participate in the generation, application, and dissemination of knowledge within their communities. PSA operates within the Jinja, Buikwe, and Kamuli districts where its staff trains local tutors and recruits communities of interest for the program. In exchange for its services, communities provide PSA with meeting spaces where students gather five days a week for approximately three hours per day. Over the course of two years, students pay a tuition fee of $18 USD which is invested back into program activities.
The PSA methodology is tutorial-based - integrating both theoretical and action-based components. Its theoretical core consists of a series of eighteen textbooks that focus on math, science, and technology. So that concepts appear less abstract, this material is applied to community-building activities in the fields of agriculture, environmental sustainability, heath, and early childhood development. For example, when analyzing spreadsheets, students apply mathematical data to help local businesses. Similarly, when learning about science and technology, students apply content to local agriculture. While the PSA curriculum focuses on math and science, language lessons are also offered to help students refine everyday communication skills.
Over the years, the program has diversified its target audience. Initially PSA engaged only out-of-school children. However, implementers realized that low-performing students could also benefit from their curriculum. Specifically, they found that by supplementing traditional class time with PSA pedagogy, students gain confidence in their understanding of science, math, and language concepts and learning becomes more relevant to their daily lives. In addition to youth, PSA now reaches out to teachers who seek to improve their instructional methods.
The Program for Social Action (PSA) was originally developed by The Foundation for the Application and Teaching of the Sciences (FUNDAEC) in the 1970s. Its success in rural communities throughout Colombia sparked the interest of the international community and its curriculum has since been re-written to suit a global audience. In its early years, the Kimanya-Ngeyo Foundation received direct support from FUNDAEC in the form of startup costs, learning materials, and tutor training.
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CEI approaches in action
The Preparation for Social Action program recruits students through community meetings and home visits.
The program currently has thirty groups studying across various communities within the Jinja, Buikwe, and Kamuli districts. Each group is comprised of approximately ten to fifteen students instructed by one tutor. Clusters of 6-8 groups are assigned one coordinator to organize learning activities.
Currently, the program serves 120 students and has graduated 420 students.
Tutor Training | For the first 2-3 years of the program, tutors received training and support from FUNDEAC on a regular basis. However, a group of university students conducted an intensive study of PSA for one year - after which the program was able to develop in-house capacity to train its instructors.
Learners Served | In 2007, PSA served 20 groups of students. In 2013, this number increased to 31 groups.
Target Audience | Over the years, the program has expanded its target audience from one to three unique groups:
- Out-of-school children
- Low-performing students or students at-risk of dropping out
- Teachers who want to improve their effectiveness in the classroom
Response | In the future, PSA hopes to gain a better understanding of group dynamics and stability, as well as how to more effectively respond to the needs of students and graduates.
Reach | PSA has identified a demand for its services in other regions of Uganda. The program hopes to provide people from these areas with PSA training so they are able to implement the curriculum in their own communities. PSA would also like to work more directly with schools in the future.
Retention | One challenge this program faces is the transient nature of their target age group. In order to improve student retention, PSA hopes to develop three distinct levels within the program for students who cannot commit to a full-length program but would still benefit from shorter sessions.
Research | PSA is also looking to further develop its research initiative as a way to improve its curriculum. This research will focus on three distinct areas:
- Agriculture: Transforming students' attitudes towards agriculture as positive and fundamental
- Education: Refining the PSA curriculum and measuring teachers' responsiveness to PSA training
- Community Health: Engaging community health workers to contribute to this focus area
Monitoring & Evaluation
Coordinators | Regionally, and in each unit, PSA coordinators track student and teacher attendance, conduct learning evaluations, and monitor students' activities in the community.
Learning Evaluation | At the end of each textbook, students complete an evaluation on learned concepts. However, evaluations are structured to make students feel as though they are not being tested. The main goal is to help students and tutors realize what they do and do not understand and provide them with a space to review those concepts.
Post Grad Activities | After hearing the success stories of many former PSA students, the program seeks to monitor post grad activties in the community more closely (e.g. skills attained, community involvement, engagement with local businesses).
As of February 2014, over 400 students have graduated from the PSA program.