Published on July 17, 2013 by Dr. Betsy Rogers  

This summer, Terra Nova Academy, a small but growing school in Kampala, Uganda, inspired a Samford professor, alumna and student to work alongside one another to serve others.

During the month of June, Dr. Carol Dean, a retired Samford education professor and chair, traveled to Terra Nova with a team from her church, Baptist Church of the Covenant (BCOC).

Terra Nova is a school founded and managed by Samford graduate, Alisha Damron Seruyange and her husband, Abdul. The school’s goal is to “create a safe,nurturing place for learning that embodies Christian community, empowers students for leadership and encourages healthy development partnered with creativity.”

The BCOC team, consisting of three other educators from Birmingham, was prepared to provide professional development for Terra Nova teachers, in addition to delivering equipment and school supplies donated by members of their church.

One of the educators was Ann Elizabeth McInvale, a ’07 Samford education graduate. McInvale and others from the BCOC team helped educate the Terra Nova teachers and teachers from the surrounding community by leading two all-day workshops and then holding follow-up visits with the schools of the teachers who attended the workshops.

“ One of the best things about this workshop was helping connect these schools and teachers so that they can have a sustainable network that will allow them to learn from one another,” McInvale said. “In a culture where competition among schools is high and collaboration is almost unheard of, it was very exciting to see teachers come together with a willingness to learn something new and an eagerness to do what’s best for their students.”

According to Terra Nova’s statistics, Uganda has the second youngest population in the world, while the average Ugandan woman has six children. Free education does not exist, making it difficult for children to gain an education, due to the high prices. Therefore, Terra Nova, which means “new earth”, hopes to make a difference in Uganda’s education system by providing quality education at a price families can afford.

“ They are doing amazing work in a local neighborhood with precious preschool children,” Dean said. “The children are thriving -- singing, laughing, learning English and letters and numbers. The parents are so grateful for the opportunity that their children are being given.” 

During her time there, Dean also worked closely with Hannah Barnette, a senior Samford education major. Barnette said her original summer plans fell through, but after being presented with the opportunity to serve at Terra Nova, she felt confirmation that was where the Lord wanted her from the beginning.

Barnette assists in a classroom half of the week and teaches art to the students the other half. She said the classroom placement stretched her as the age group she works with is younger than she has experience with, but she has enjoyed the opportunity for growth.

“I have come to realize through this experience that even though I came here to teach, I am the one learning so much,” Barnette said. “I am beginning to understand that to be a teacher really means you are a lifelong student.”

To learn more about Terra Nova, visit their website .