Tom Calvin Ocakacan understands that learners are a priority . Should they need help, he must find ways to ensure students at Rhino Camp High School know how to reach out. The learners adore him! He has earned their respect by being approachable. He, however, confesses that so much has gone into morphing him into the versatile teacher he is today; Windle International Uganda has played a role.
He is among the over three thousand teachers employed by the organisation today to especially know how to handle learners in refugee communities. “I teach Christian Religious Education and Geography,” he says. “I joined the school in 2016, after completing the course of becoming a teacher.” His first stint as a teacher was part-time at a school based in Gulu District.
When Windle International Uganda advertised teaching jobs in Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement, he quickly applied and was taken on as a full-time employee. “Here, my salary is paid by Windle International Uganda and on time,” he says. “Though the experience in Gulu was good, there is peace of mind in knowing you have a salary every end of month.”
Important to note is that in the Windle International Uganda-supported schools, teachers are encouraged to multitask. For example, Ocakacan says that he has been tasked with improving the school’s reading culture and managing the library. “Yes, I am the librarian!” he exclaims. “The head teacher and the committee appointed me to help in the library department so that our learners can get all the help they need.”
He notes that Windle International Uganda, with support from Book Aid, started by providing the school with shelves, office and reserve section books, usually used by teachers as a teacher’s guide. After that, they took him through training that weaved him into the magnificent librarian he is today. “In that training, we learnt a lot of things that could help people like me who are not professional librarians,” he explains. “I learnt how to give access numbers for the books, how to encourage learners to read among many other things.”
His organisational skills have been sharpened with every new arrival of books into the library. “The books are very many and the shelf cannot accommodate all of them,” he says before explaining how he maneuvers through it all. “What I have decided to do is to put a few copies up here for display for the learners to get access to and when I realise the demand is high, I keep increasing them.”
Indeed, the books are meticulously organised in his library, with each title visible for all to see. He says that he has identified a site where he places the books on demand to ease access daily. He adds that it wasn’t always like that; before the training, the records were not proper, and the turn-up of learners seeking books was low.
“Now days, on average 40 books are borrowed every day,” he revels in his strides. “I see new and old students borrowing on a daily, and the numbers have grown since schools reopened.”
Despite being known for his teaching prowess by the learners, he is also the teacher advocating for book-reading. “Apart from the time when I am teaching, I always move around and when I find no lessons in the classes, I encourage them to visit the library,” he says. “We have a series of books that can help them not only to pass examinations, but boost their communication skills.”
Ocakacan also says that being around books has made him an all-around teacher. He emphasises that the entire experience has widened his knowledge and improved his confidence. “Now days I even find myself reading books related to sciences, yet in my Ordinary and Advanced level I did Arts,” he confesses. “For example, there is a book on general sciences called ‘How things work’, that I love to read; I am an arts teacher but I find myself learning more things in science now.”