My Grandparents’ Childhood
It is suggested that this activity is conducted in groups of 3.
Each child should choose a grandparent or someone of a similar age and ask them if they are willing to be interviewed, by themselves and two school friends, about their lives when they were children. All three children together will interview three adults.
The children should imagine that they are newspaper reporters. They have been asked by their newspaper to find out about what life was like when their grandparents were children. They should find out as much as possible about their lives and prepare a story for the newspaper.
They should begin by making a list of the questions they would like to ask.
To choose the questions, they should try to imagine what readers of the newspaper might find interesting about life at that time.
Children should be given an opportunity to come up with questions themselves but, if they are finding it difficult, you may need to give them some hints, such as:
- How many people were in the family?
- How did they sleep?
- What did they eat?
- What jobs did they have to do each day as children?
- What time did they get up in a morning and go to bed at night?
- How did they get water and firewood?
- What things did they have in their homes?
Beds, furniture, cooking equipment, tools for digging, hunting?
- How did they survive? Where did they get their food?
- Did they sell things in markets? What?
- How did they get money?
- Did they sing and make music? What songs did they sing?
- Did they play games? What games?
- Did they ever get into trouble?
- What made them happy?
- What other things do they remember about life when they were young?
Bringing it all together
It is important that the children have an opportunity to talk about what they learned from the interviews and to hear what other children found out. According to the age and ability of the children, they could be asked to:
Give a Talk: A few groups could be chosen to talk to the class about interesting things they found out about the lives of their grandparents. Other children could add things they found.
Write a Newspaper Story: Describe, in a short story, some of the more interesting things they found out from their grandparents.
(Note: We could add the best of these stories to the HumanStudies.Education website.
Perhaps teachers could take photographs of children interviewing their grandparents.)
Draw a Picture: If you have suitable materials, the children could draw a picture illustrating something they learned from the interviews.
Make a Drama: The children could act out, with their grandparents present, some of the more dramatic or funny things that happened to their grandparents when they were young.
2 Minutes Thankfulness
It is quite a nice idea to ask the children to spend two minutes in silence being thankful to their grandparents for all they have done to care for their family, and for overcoming all the challenges they had to face along the way.
Senior Reporters: Changing Lives
Teachers need to explain to the secondary students that they are going to be newspaper reporters. Their job is to carry out an investigation and write a news feature about life in the past, when their older family members were young. They are going to obtain the information they need by interviewing older members of their families.
They will work in groups of 3, and each group must interview 3 people.
Students should begin by listing those aspects of their elders lives that might be interesting to readers of the newspaper, who mainly live in towns and cities.
Bear in mind that your family members will have faced many challenges in their lives. For example, they might have experienced serious accidents and illnesses, childbirth, loss of family, crop failure, economic insecurity, periods of social disorder, civil war and changes in national leadership. Some will have prospered and seen substantial improvements in their living standards, others will have had a life of ups and downs. Whatever has happened to your elders they will all have learned a lot in their lives – they are older and wiser!
Through the interviews try to learn as much as possible about what life was like in earlier times. Many people before were not able to go to school. How was their childhood different? Did they have time to play or did they have a life of work from an early age? What games did children play? What adventures did they get up to? Was the food the same as now? In what ways have their lives changed? What were the most challenging periods in their lives?
Take a look at the Timeline of Ugandan History.
What have been the key events since 1939? Try to find out from your elders, which of these events affected their lives. Think of some questions you might ask them about the Political History of Uganda.
Young people are being asked to imagine themselves as young newspaper reporters, setting out to write stories about what things were like during the lives of their parents, grandparents and others who have gone before them.
The first step is to give students time to frame their own questions to use as a starting point for discussion. If they need help then the questions for primary children could be used or adapted. But we offer two alternatives below:
Alternative A: Open Format Interview
This is where the students think of some simple opening questions and then simply prompt their interviewees to keep talking about their recollections of the past. Students try to make as accurate as possible account of what was said.
Alternative B: Political History Focused Interview
As a teacher of secondary students, you might want to ask them to focus on their grandparents’ and elders’ memories of important political events in Uganda.
A good preparation for this, if it is possible, would be for students to spend time studying the Timeline of Ugandan History. This sets out the basic chronology of events, and links provide access to further information about the events. As extra information comes to light, it will be added to the links in the timeline.
Here are suggested questions to tease out the elders views on the political evolution of Uganda:
- In your life as a whole, who or what has had the most impact on your life? What has caused the biggest change for you?
- Was your life affected by changes in political leaders or by the periods of trouble and fighting?
- How did you feel about life under Obote, Amin and Museveni?
What were they like to begin with? What were they like later?
- Did the expulsion of the Asians in 1972 affect you at all?
How do you feel about it?
- Do any of them remember life before Independence in 1962, under the British? What was it like then?
- Do you remember the 1945 or 1949 disturbances?
Did you take part? Why or why not?
- Do you remember the April 1962 pre-Independence election?
How did you or your parents vote? What was it like, voting for the first time?
- How did you come to hear that Obote II was over and that Museveni and the NRA were in power? What difference did that make to you?
Advice on the Conduct of Interviews
Sensitising students to some principles of how to conduct effective interviews is essential.
Listening and recording carefully. A good interviewer knows the value of silence. Once you have asked someone a question, it is important to keep quiet and listen carefully to the answer. Sometimes, it will be clear that the interviewee does not understand your question. In which case you might need to make the question clearer.
Older children and students can be made aware of the importance, for all news reporters, of the following principles:
Corroboration. This involves confirming someone’s account by checking it against materials from other sources. A story can be corroborated by comparing it with written, photographic, recorded sources or by interviewing more people.
Triangulation. This is when you ask a number of people the same questions and compare the replies until you feel you have gained a reasonably accurate picture. This can be a good way to corroborate a story.
Once the interviews have been conducted, they should be written up. If different students are exploring the same topic, then it would be good to bring them together to compare the information they have gathered. In this case, a single agreed account could be written.
Please ensure that some of the better stories are submitted to the Living History web pages, so they can form an historical record for those in other schools around Uganda and across the world to see.