Early Childhood Development in Rural Kenya
The New Year finds the education team invigorated and preparing to launch the outreach program. Once the program’s implementation schedule is complete, our first priority is to communicate our goals and plans to the community and relevant Ministry, government and school officials. Our intention is to communicate in a way that engages these parties and solicits feedback. This is more challenging than it may seem. What we are planning to implement is something new and unique in our district and, as far as we know, in Kenya.
The main communication challenge we face is that this community has only been exposed to the Kenyan exam-centric system. Most are not aware of alternative approaches or their efficacy – their perspectives are limited. Many are certificate dependent in their estimation of academic progress, merit and success. For many illiterate parents, certificates serve as tangible proof of learning and achievement. We need to explain the value of an alternative approach to a community that has no reference point for that approach and has never seen it in action.
The same holds true for many of the government and school officials in our area. They are isolated from innovations in the education sector and not well versed in alternative learning techniques. Many are strident believers in teaching to the exams. They push NGOs toward infrastructure development and scholarship programs. We have to not only resist that pressure, but prove the validity of our approach, one that is new and unfamiliar here. They are skeptical and yet we need their approval to work with the schools.
We need to gain trust and establish credibility. To do that, we are planning a set of high impact projects that we can launch immediately at the offset of the outreach program. These programs are intended to provide parents, teachers, school administrators and officials with an immediate and tangible example of our value and impact. These are programs that will engage the school community in Nuru’s program and create a lasting and deeper demand. Once that demand has been established, we will roll out the rest of the outreach programs while working to build and prepare the learning center for drop-in services.
The outreach programs will target the Early Childhood Development classes up to Standard 8 and include things like reading hours, creating educational murals with the students to serve as learning and teaching aids, and facilitated creative writing workshops. We are working to find ways to maximize idle times in schools. We are targeting days of the week that have low teacher attendance and times of the day that tend to be devoted only to play.
The programs are intended to not only impact child literacy, but also to engage parents and teachers. We believe the programs will demonstrate the power of engaging students in creative, participatory learning while improving literacy rates and because of these successes, will spark a gradual change in the ways parents and teachers work to inspire and facilitate learning. This gradual change coupled with the programs we institute through the learning center should help to address some of the challenges discussed in previous blogs.