No Silver Bullet for Primary Education for Extreme Poor

As Thomas gracefully exits Kuria I will try to make a smooth entrance in the Nuru International’s Education Program.

My name is Lindsey Kneuven and I have been in Kuria now for a little over 3 weeks. I am serving as the new Education Program Manager, responsible for building on the momentum that my predecessors and Kenyan colleagues have created. I will be here through mid-March of 2011 and will be focused on creating a sustainable and replicable model school that will act as a platform for tangible positive change in schools throughout the district. The focus of the model school will be to significantly improve child literacy – no small task.  Thomas has done a great job preparing me, the team and the community, for this transition and I hope that together we can make this changing of guards as seamless as possible.

To pick up where Thomas left off, Taragwiti Primary School was selected as the sponsor school after significant research and analysis was conducted by the Kenyan team. The school was selected based on numerous factors, some of which included:

  • It is one of the 4 lowest performing schools in the district
  • Parents expressed a commitment to improving the school’s standards and partnering with Nuru
  • Students reported a strong desire to learn

In Kenya, public schools are largely managed by a committee of elected parent representatives. The process of sponsoring a school is entirely dependent upon the agreement of a school’s parent committee. As Thomas mentioned in a previous blog. Nuru held a meeting to propose sponsorship of Taragwiti – one that was met with a unanimous vote in favor of Nuru’s sponsorship. Here’s a quick clip showing the parents closing the meeting with a celebratory clap.

With that beautiful display of support, the education team will begin to roll out a new school management plan, a sustainability plan and a district-wide replication strategy in partnership with the school community. The goal is not to trick out this one primary school and erase the challenges it faces through external funding. The goal is to work in partnership with the parents, the students, the teachers, the community, the local chiefs and the Ministry of Education to impact child literacy in a way that is wholly sustainable at the local level.  The goal is to affect change in a way that can be successfully recreated without financial resources at the small, rural schools that are suffering from child to teacher ratios of 70 to 1, no textbooks, untrained teachers and poor leadership – those with a very raw level of need.

It’s hard to come into a community like Kuria and know that there is not a silver bullet for poverty or poor education. My hope is that this model school will uplift the quality of education at Taragwiti, significantly improving child literacy. That the structure, programs and sustainability systems we implement at Taragwiti will be adopted throughout the community. And finally, that these changes will equip schools to improve the quality of education they provide – creating stronger future leaders, engaging parents to value and prioritize education, and contributing to a community that is more capable of making educated decisions that empower them out of extreme poverty.

I am excited to embark on this challenge in partnership with a great team. I also look forward to sharing our progress with you. I invite your comments, questions and critique and look forward to hearing your perspective on these challenging issues.

About Lindsey Kneuven

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