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MONTREAL, APRIl 5 2006 — Longtime English Montreal School Board (EMSB) teacher Judy Labow Wugalter will lead a four person delegation to Uganda next summer to teach young children how to read.

Ms. Wugalter has taught in the public school system for more than 40 years. She is presently the head teacher at the Family and Child Psychiatry School of the Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, run jointly with the EMSB. Joining her on the trip, which is being self-financed by the participants, will be occupational therapist Jessica Gantz from the hospital, fourth year McGill University Faculty of Education student Melanie Thomas and retired Champlain Regional College humanities teacher Robert Feinstein.

Project volunteers will work in two locations, a rural school near Kampala, and a poor village called Namuwongo. Upon her return, Ms. Wugalter hopes to sensitize pupils and patients to cultural differences through a literacy project containing phonics and illustrations based on her experience in Uganda.

The project is divided into four parts:

  • Project I will involve Literacy via Song. Children from the Jewish General Hospital Child Psychiatry Department will be recorded singing a variety of songs chosen to be taught to poor children/youth in Uganda. The texts of the songs will be used to teach or improve literacy in Namuwongo, Uganda.
  • Project II is aimed at developing a beginner’s reading program, with short texts and drawings prepared by youngsters in rural schools and in shantytown. It will help train literate adults in Namuwongo to assist and teach illiterate children who cannot attend school.
  • Project III will see children/youth in Namuwongo take photographs of their families and environment in the shantytown. Photos will be developed and project members will act as resources to children/youth writing their text to accompany their photos. Ms. Wugalter’s team wishes to purchase or obtain Polaroid cameras for this endeavor.
  • Upon their return to Quebec, the delegation will attempt to secure funding to produce, bind and laminate booklets for projects II and III and a manual for project II. A second part of project III will involve the reading of a Canadian novel to and with the youth in the rural high school and in Namuwongo.
  • In Project IV, a variety of equipment and games will be used towards the enhancement of fine and gross motor skills, improve the coordination of youngsters in Uganda, and introduce pleasure and fun.
  • The phonetic/story method in project II can be used as a prototype to teach any group of children in any country. Children in Uganda will move from being illiterate to beginning literacy. Self worth, and importance of community are goals thereby met. Meanwhile, children in Quebec will hear and be taught songs recorded by African Children.

    Materials from projects II and III will be published, as booklets and used as teaching materials at the Jewish General Hospital and in any other interested school. A group of approximately 20 non-readers will be selected. They will be taught the shapes and sounds of all letters of the alphabet and move from vowel consonant words to more complex decoding.

    A group of approximately 10 students in the rural school and 20 youth in Namuwongo will read and discuss a Canadian novel.

    This project is being undertaken in partnership with the Global Forum on International Cooperation (GFIC).

    Ms. Wugalter says she and Mr. Feinstein were in Africa last summer as tourists and spent some time in Southern Uganda, cognizant of the violence that occurs in the northern part of the country where a the ruthless and brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rules. Upon their return home they heard about an event called the Gulu Walk being put on by Concordia and McGill students. Gulu is a town in Northern Uganda where children commute to during the night, traveling as far as 20 km by foot without any adult supervision to a place where they believe they can spend the night in safety. They settle to sleep in the open, where they are often abused and exploited. This temporary night displacement has destroyed family and cultural roles, and has deprived an entire generation of children from a primary education.

    At the Gulu Walk, Ms. Wugalter was approached by an activist from Uganda named Awel whom they befriended. Before long he had convinced them to make this trip. “I’m 65 and Bob is 63,” she said. “Then we have our two much younger companions, Jessica, 25,and Melanie, 21. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us.”

    Ms. Wugalter is presently accepting cash donations and gifts in kind. Stuart Nulman, an EMSB communications consultant and CJAD book review specialist, gave her more than a dozen books to bring to Uganda. A parent from Elizabeth Ballantyne Elementary School in Montreal West is giving $500 towards the cost of a ship container which will bring the delegation’s necessary supplies to Uganda. For more information, Ms. Wugalter can be reached at (514) 340-8222, ext. 5336 or by email at

    Michael J. Cohen
    Communications and Marketing Specialist
    English Montreal School Board
    Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
    Fax: (514) 483-7213