Improvisation and Arts Education in Uganda
Allen Tush Naturinda is the Certified Trainer for Skills for Adolescents and Facilitator of the Arts Education program and In Movement: Art for Social Change in Uganda.
IICSI were introduced to Allen Tush Naturinda’s work in Kampala through David Lane, a PhD student in IICSI’s 2019/2020 Critical Studies in Improvisation graduate program cohort. Lane has degrees in Jazz Studies and Music Education, but he traveled to Uganda to do research for his MSc in Rural Planning and Development and, while there, discovered the use of improvisation in education.
Marie Zimmerman, IICSI’s Community Engagement Officer, Research and Partnerships, discussed Naturinda’s work through email, and the correspondence begins with Naturinda describing what she does.
Allen Tush Naturinda: I work with youth within and outside the school setting. We call them holiday packages or after-school classes. We use Arts to teach skills that would help these children survive through the pressures of life that would divert their focus from achieving a good education as well as a good life. Ours, in short, is called transformative art.
We mainly use theatre improv–Drama, Music, Dance, visual Art and Creative Writing. We always use themes for such teaching and teach them how to appreciate a good life using things around them. We have developed a curriculum based on three major themes, which help us to achieve such transformation in three years for every group of students we engage:
We teach these themes through residential camps and weekend classes and this has produced results, especially with the category of youth who were formally on the streets.
Marie: Who are the people with whom you are working and why?
Allen Tush Naturinda: I work mainly with teachers and youth workers from other organisations.
Firstly, the reason is that they understand the challenges youth are faced with in our country and can contextualise the topics we use to engage the youth easily. Secondly, we share a common objective and that is to help the youth to stay away from destructive behavior in order to have a safe and caring community. Thirdly, it is a strategy to get work space, since we rely on funding for most of these activities. It would be costly to hire venues for such workshops and classes, but when we have such partnerships, it makes our work less costly and yet it impacts many with our program.
The other group of people I work with is Lions Clubs International.www.lionsclubs.org This is a volunteer organisation that also has an interest in reaching out to the young generation through its programs. They help to mobilise the beneficiaries of such programs and they fund some of the activities. In addition to this, they have sponsored some of the workshops, which have been an uplift in my career as a trainer for education programs.
Marie: To what extent do you use improvisation in your work?
Allen Tush Naturinda: By the nature of our program, improvisation becomes part of every activity, especially where we wish to grow their critical thinking. Before every class that we do, we start with theatre games and then theatre improv to move into the main teaching of the theme of the day. So, it is a powerful tool in our teaching.
Marie: Why do you use improv instead of more conventional approaches?
Allen Tush Naturinda: I use improv because it provokes critical thinking among the children that we engage. These children are limited in expressing themselves in English, but we find that when we use improvisation, they come out with strong expressions, which is the desired result.
We use process-oriented teaching because it helps the learners to open up and to build strong inter- and intra-personal skills as they work in small groups. It also promotes team work and good relations among the children. And, lastly, it is less intimidating and encourages conversation among learners and facilitators.
Marie: What social changes are you trying to bring about?
Allen Tush Naturinda: We are trying to bring about improved family bonds between children and parents and positive growth. We would like to help raise healthy and capable youth who are able to create income-generating activities within their communities. And we are trying to encourage good behaviour in school and good relations between teachers and students, which in the long run would improve academic performance and produce stable families, as well as reduce crime. We try to create positive peer pressure.