The Nuru Education Team welcomes Jolene McCall! Below, find Jolene’s initial thoughts and hopes for the Nuru Education program.

Nearly four years after completing my Peace Corps service in Niger, West Africa and returning to the United States, I was anxious to revisit the continent of Africa and to begin my brief stay in Isibania, Kenya with a new purpose. As a municipal community development volunteer in the Maradi region of Niger, I worked closely with the local kindergartens and secondary schools to improve educational practices while my understanding of the importance of education expanded immensely. In the United States, my experience working in both primary and secondary schools to increase academic achievement and college access has also contributed the value and importance I place on an individual’s education. As a result, I completed a Master’s in Social and Cultural Analysis of Education before beginning a PhD program in Education at the University of California, Irvine. My professional and academic experiences have greatly shifted my perspectives of education as I have come to recognize the purpose of education beyond the transfer of standardized knowledge from teacher to student and rather as a cornerstone of development and individual opportunity. Through this perspective, I am excited and appreciative to be able to contribute to the curriculum development for Nuru’s education program in Kenya.

In preparation of aiding in the curriculum development for the education intervention program, I participated in Nuru’s meetings with Harvest, as they created progression maps aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and cognitive learning research, in order to better understand the research behind our educational goals. Now here in Kenya, I have been working closely with George Nyamweya, the Education Training Manager, to strategically develop lessons plans based on the progressions that can be used for pre-unit through class 7 that will assist students to achieve Standard 2 level literacy. With the demand for quality, primary education often can be met in developing effective educational approaches that provide students with the tools and opportunities to meet learning goals and achieve desired educational outcomes. With this in mind, George’s knowledge and understanding of the specific context of the schools and challenges students face has been a critical component in designing the curriculum.

During my first two weeks in Isibania, the teacher strike persisted. Despite this unfortunate circumstance, I was able to witness the rigorous and effective teacher training sessions while also having the opportunity to interact and get to know Nuru’s teachers who implement the interventions. In addition to their willingness to teach me Kiswahili, there motivation and aptitude towards was visibly evident both during and outside of the sessions. My interactions with the entire team have been exceptionally beneficial for conceptualizing a curriculum that I am hopeful will be effectively implemented to yield positive results. As George and I continue to make huge strides towards achieving our goal of creating fifty lesson plans before I return to the States, we continually reach out to the team for feedback on our work to ensure that we will produce a sound manual that is both flexible to the varying levels of students as well as challenging to push students to reach the goal of English language literacy.