Communication and Technology in Rural Kenya

In just a couple of weeks FT3 will be hosting the first team of outside observers to come and critically evaluate the work the foundation teams have been doing on the ground over the last year. The evaluation team will be here for almost an entire month gathering data on all five of our development areas. Unfortunately, the team is coming a couple of days after all of the schools close down for the holidays, which means that some of the information they would like to gather, such as classroom observations and head teacher interviews, will have to be collected by the education team on the ground ahead of time.

After discussing with the research team on the best way to gather this data, we decided to use this task as an opportunity to introduce our two education field officers, Munsi and Sabora, to our approach in conducting systematic research. As certified teachers from the local area, both Munsi and Sabora came to Nuru with a valuable blend of experience working in education and a deep commitment to improving their communities. As Nuru continues to expand, they have great potential to rise up in the managerial ranks of Nuru’s Education Program to serve as program managers over an entire division, district or even province in Kenya. Therefore, it’s important for them to begin to learn about Nuru’s process of research and evaluation early on, so that one day they will be able to lead other Kenyan teams through this process as we grow to other areas.

The Nuru Research Team on the stateside did a great job of clearly laying out exactly what they needed, so the job was pretty straightforward. Basically, Munsi and Sabora would fill out two forms of data based on classroom observations and interviews with the head teachers from the schools. Both of the field officers are fluent in written and spoken English, so the paperwork didn’t pose any challenge. Yet, the research team and I also wanted to make it very clear that the data collected needed to be objective and unbiased also. In order to do this, we arranged to have a phone conversation with Nuru’s Senior Research Officer, Stephanie Jayne, through Skype.

A few days later when we sat down in the front yard outside the Nuru house to have the call. I also couldn’t help but giggle at the situation at hand. As I opened my laptop to look for our wireless internet connection there were baby chickens running around our feet and I could hear the sound of women and children chatting as they gathered water and washed their clothes in the nearby stream. I thought to myself, what a crazy world we live in, where two such different lifestyles can so easily come together. Munsi and Sabora watched closely was I connected to skype and looked for Stephanie in cyberspace. When her image popped up on the monitor to greet us, Munsi exclaimed, “Hello madam!  I can see you…my, you are looking well, even from so far away!”

We had a great conversation with Stephanie, clarifying any technical questions the field officers had about the evaluation forms and discussing methods for collecting objective, unbiased data. At the end of the conversation we said our goodbyes. Stephanie said she was looking forward to meeting Munsi and Sabora in just a couple of weeks. “But now we already know each other! Karibu (welcome) anytime,” Sabora exclaimed.

As we hung up the phone, Sabora, Munsi and I discussed the potential for us to continue communicating once I’d left Kenya in February. I showed them how to set up an email account and we talked about ways we could stay updated on one another’s lives through this thing called facebook. As I walked with them down the goat path that led to the main road home, I mused at how small the world was becoming with technology. “No,” Munsi argued, ”with these technologies, the world is really growing.”

He was right. I’d meant to express how amazing it was that we could so easily stay in touch from halfway around the world. Yet, his perspective highlighted the impact that the internet could have in a poor, rural area like this one, where few people have the financial means to travel beyond the few kilometers where they were born.  As Nuru Kenya continues to expand and the mzungus (white folks) pack up to leave in a few years, it’s going to be cool to see technology’s role in facilitating collaboration between Nuru International and Nuru Kenya.  Not only will Munsi be able to share photographs of growing family with me on facebook, but he’ll be able to give our stateside research team updates on the progress of the Nuru Education Programs on the ground. We’ll be able to brainstorm and troubleshoot tough issues he and Sabora are facing as we expand to new locations. We can share documents, surveys, statistics and research articles with the click of a button. We can work on ending extreme poverty… one community at a time… together… from halfway around the world.  What a small world it is. What a giant opportunity we have.

About Chelsea Barabas

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