Change is in the Air
The end of 2011 brought a lot of new changes to the Education program. We doubled the number of students attending our Learning Resource Center, we launched a mobile version of the Learning Resource Center, and we piloted a new student progress tracking system. In 2012, the Education program has launched its first Mobile Library program at a school called PAG, where reading levels are high, in which books are brought to schools and children are assisted in finding the meanings for unknown words and quizzed on comprehension. As the year wound down, the Kenyan government also announced a number of changes in relation to its revamping of the national Education Act. In part, this included potential changes to both the examination and school year calendars. It also included the recent and continuing closing of what are known as ‘bush schools’. The term can encompass a range of descriptions, but here locally, it most often describes a school that is opened without any official approval or sanctioning, is often run by someone with no background in education, lacks any trained teachers, and is usually run out of someone’s home, charging fees for attendance. As the bush schools have closed in the area, parents have been going from school to school in the district to try to try to enroll their children in public schools. The public schools have allowed many in but have also had to turn others away once they reach capacity.
Nuru’s Education program focuses specifically on children public schools and out of school youth, and as these children from the bush schools are highly likely to become one or the other, this change has already significantly impacted our program and is likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Many school heads have notified us that they anticipate classes that currently have 30 to 40 students will end up having around 100 students each once the ‘bush school’ students are admitted. The higher the student to teacher ratio, the less chance that the students will receive the attention and support they need to improve their literacy levels. The same applies to the number of students our small team of nine facilitator’s will be able to effectively reach, so the changes have given us pause to figure out how to best adapt to the changing needs of the community.
In the midst of all the changes, there is one thing that has remained fairly constant: the eagerness of the students to learn. One of our facilitator’s named Sabora was out at a school called Nyasese delivering our outreach programs last week. Nyasese is quite remote with a small enrollment, and has one of the lowest literacy levels of all the schools we work with. Toward the end of the day, he reached Class 6 (relatively the equivalent of sixth grade) and in the middle of a lesson in which the students had been struggling, he focused in on the long ‘e’ sound that a double ‘e’ or an ‘ea’ can make, including words like deep, feet, seed, meet, neat, beat, read, and eat. Somehow they got that part of the lesson instantly. Sabora asked them who had been teaching them about these vowel sounds since they understood them so well, and they replied that in fact Sabora had some time last year. They told him even the smallest details of the lesson he had given, recited the examples, and even recounted jokes he had told to help them remember. Sabora was overjoyed. He immediately shared this with the Education team. Our teaching methods are effective, the students are learning, and the knowledge is helping them to develop their literacy skills. Needless to say, as we continue to hear stories like this from the schools we began working with last year, we are endlessly gratified to take part in creating this positive change alongside the children of this community.