Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Description of Service

Peace Corps Uganda
PO Box 7007, Plot 48 Malcolm X Drive, Kololo, Kampala, Uganda


Jennifer Harkins – Peace Corps Uganda

After a competitive process stressing applicant skills, adaptability and cross-cultural understanding, Ms. Jennifer Harkins was invited into Peace Corps Service. As part of the language and cross-cultural component of the training program, Ms. Harkins lived with a Ugandan family in Seguku for approximately 8 weeks and was made to feel welcome and at home. This home stay assisted Ms. Harkins in adapting to the Ugandan culture and acquiring local language abilities, thus facilitating the transition into her service in Kinoni.

Ms. Harkins began Peace Corps training on February 11, 2011 at the training site in Lweza, Uganda where she completed an intensive ten-week training program encompassing the following subject areas:

Cross-cultural Orientation: This component consisted of sessions on the Ugandan people, including politics, geography, social values and norms, history, health, and gender roles (40 hours).

Technical: This component included a general introduction to the education system in Uganda; a specific introduction to secondary schools; community mobilization; practice teaching in secondary schools; and observation and feedback skills. (167.5 hours).

Language: Study of the Runyankore language (82.5 hours). Ms. Harkins passed her ACTFL exam at the Intermediate Low level.

Medical: First aid, tropical and preventive medicine, and stress management (20 hours).

Safety and Security: This component consisted of training in personal and road safety issues (8 hours).

Ms. Harkins entered into Peace Corps service April 22, 2011 and was assigned to Kinoni Girls’ Secondary School in Kinoni, Mbarara District through the Ministry of Education and Sports.

Kinoni Girls’ Secondary School, affiliated with the Church of Uganda, is an all-girls educational boarding school situated in Southwestern Uganda. The school offers the first four years of secondary education called the "Ordinary Levels" and the last two years of secondary education called the “Advanced Levels” all in an English medium. The six hundred students of Kinoni Girls’ come from highly diverse backgrounds and many lack proper English skills. Ms. Harkins was the only non-Ugandan member of a staff of 45 teachers and 20 non-teaching staff, and though assigned by the Ministry of Education, she reported directly to Kinoni Girl's Headmaster.

As a secondary school teacher, Ms. Harkins served within the Ugandan educational system, assigned as a Computer teacher. Her teaching duties included curriculum development, daily lesson planning as well as constructing and administrating exams and practicals. At the end of Senior 4, students take a comprehensive National Exam, and only by passing it are they allowed to continue to the next levels of secondary education. Thus, many of Ms. Harkins’ teaching efforts were focused on adequately preparing the students for the exam. While Ms. Harkins was primarily a computer teacher she also assisted the mathematics department in teaching one grade level of math for two semesters. Her teaching load, on average, consisted of 15 teaching periods a week. Each semester she taught between one and three grade levels and each level consisted of one or two streams of 45-80 students.

The curriculum Ms. Harkins followed was put forward by the Ugandan Ministry of Education. In her two semesters teaching math, Ms. Harkins covered arithmetic, geometry, algebra, linear and polynomial functions, and statistics. The computer syllabus, which Ms. Harkins taught for the entirety of her service, covered a broad range of topics including, but not limited to, uses of computers, input and output devices, Microsoft DOS, programming languages, computer software, Microsoft Windows, and Microsoft Office (including MS-Word, MS-Excel, and MS-Powerpoint). Mandatory laboratory practicals were included in many of these topics which Ms. Harkins prepared for and supervised with the assistance of the school's computer lab technician.

Ms. Harkins and her Ministry of Education counterpart were responsible for maintaining the computer lab and teaching all computer classes. She also worked closely with Kinoni Girls’ school administration to write a PCPP (Peace Corps Partnership Program) grant for $7200 which allowed the school to acquire 20 brand new computers and a new printer for the computer lab.

Together with the help of other volunteers Ms. Harkins organized and directed a regional girls’ empowerment camp (Camp GLOW) in western Uganda which reached over 50 girls between the ages of 13 and 15. The week-long camp was held in August 2012 at St. Maria Gorretti Girls’ Secondary School in Fort Portal. In order to facilitate this camp, Ms. Harkins assisted another volunteer to write a VAST (Volunteer Activities Support and Training) grant for almost $10,000. The girls learned about healthy living (HIV/AIDS, Malaria, nutrition and water sanitation), life skills (decision making, goal setting, assertiveness, etc.), various teamwork activities and skills (e.g. critical thinking) and arts and crafts that they can turn in to IGA’s (Income Generating Activities).

Ms. Harkins also assisted with a national boys leadership and development camp, Camp BUILD (Boys of Uganda in Leadership Development), where she took on the role of a staff member. The camp reached over 100 boys between the ages of 12 and 15 from many different regions in Uganda. The week-long camp was held in December 2012 at Kisubi Seminary. She taught sessions and assisted with logistical coordination throughout the week.

Ms. Harkins was also involved in several Peace Corps activities. She was a representative on the Volunteer Action Committee (VAC), serving as a liaison between volunteers and the Peace Corps administration. Ms. Harkins also assisted in the 2012 Peace Corps Trainings in Mukono, leading one week of sessions and spending one week observing trainees practice teaching in a secondary school. She also represented secondary education volunteers in the Peace Corps Uganda Grant Committee from May 2012 to April 2013 reviewing more than 20 grants.

Ms. Harkins finished her service by working on a third goal project where she visited other volunteer sites. After each site visit she compiled information on the volunteer, their site and their experience as well as the culture the volunteer lives in and the organization they work for. She distributed this information in the form of blog posts on her previously started blog. Not only did she use this as a third goal activity, but she also made it into a mentoring activity for volunteers who hadn’t been in-country for as long as she has.

Ms. Harkins carried out the following activities during her Peace Corps service:

Secondary School Teaching
  • Taught 3 different grade levels of computer classes for 6 terms, which reached over 220 secondary school girls
  • Taught 1 grade level of Math classes for 2 school terms, which reached approximately 100 secondary school girls
  • Trained students in critical thinking and logical analysis using “Why?” question essay assignments and allowing students to draw their own conclusions based on their previous knowledge
  • Wrote PCPP Grant for the computer lab with fellow staff members
  • Integrated numerous computer lab practicals with basic classroom lessons
  • Inspired female students by being a role model as a teacher of computers and mathematics and encouraging girls to do their best in their science subjects
  • Emphasized the importance of computers and their uses in the future by counseling students and assisting them in making their course decisions

Girls Empowerment/Boys Leadership Camps
  • Organized and co-directed a weeklong regional girls empowerment camp which invited 55 girls and 12 counselors from the region. Organized camp programming, which included activities in leadership, self-esteem, teambuilding, healthy living, creativity, and reproductive health
  • Assisted as a staff member at a national boys camp focusing on leadership and development which reached 100 boys between the ages of 12 and 15
  • Selected 20 girls that benefited from various girls empowerment camps over the course of her service

Peace Corps Committees
  • Served as a member of the Volunteer Action Committee for 8 months assisting 16 volunteers to better communicate with Peace Corps Administration
  • Served as a member of the Grant Committee for 1 year in which time over 20 volunteer grants were reviewed

Training of Other Peace Corps Volunteers
  • Led pre-service training sessions for one Peace Corps training class, comprising of a total of 45 future volunteers, covering such topics as the Ugandan education system, working in a secondary school, teaching computers and math, and strategies for living and working in Uganda.
  • Assisted in training by observing trainees during their school-practice for one week

Cross-cultural Exchange
  • Authored a blog describing her life and experiences living and working in Uganda
  • Corresponded with friends and family at home to share experience and knowledge of Ugandan culture and conversed with community members in Uganda to dispel myths and stereotypes about American culture, therefore facilitating cross-cultural understanding and promoting global awareness
  • Visited 31 volunteers and blogged about their community and their experience living and working in Uganda

Ms. Harkins successfully completed her service on April 24, 2013.

This is to certify in accordance with Executive Order 11103 of April 21, 2013, that Jennifer Harkins served successfully as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She is therefore eligible to be appointed as a career-conditional employee in the competitive civil service on a non-competitive basis. This benefit under the Executive Order extends for a period of one year after termination of Volunteer service, except that the employing agency may extend the period for up to three years for a former Volunteer who enters military service, pursues studies at a recognized institution of higher learning, or engages in other activities that, in the view of the appointing agency, warrant extension of the period.

Pursuant to section 5(f) of the Peace Corps Act, 22 USC 2504(f), as amended, any former Volunteer employed by the United States Government following her Peace Corps Volunteer service is entitled to have any period of satisfactory Peace Corps Volunteer service credited for purposes of retirement, seniority, reduction in force, leave, and other privileges based on length of Government service. Peace Corps service shall not be credited toward completion of the probationary or trial period or completion of any service requirement for career appointment.

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