One-on-One with Isebania Division Education Program Leader Victoria Tissian
When you start working at Nuru, one of the first things you will hear about is the concept of servant leadership. Nuru’s Education team is lucky to have a leader that exemplifies this value every day. Victoria Tissian has been Nuru’s Isebania Division Program Leader for the past two years. Vicky has seen huge changes in her three years working for Nuru’s Education Program, but has persevered and showed a steady leadership throughout. Vicky is the one that Field Managers and Education Coordinators turn to when something is wrong or an important decision needs to be made. Above all, Vicky has a tireless work ethic, often doing work related things on nights and weekends. She is always thinking of how we can make our program sustainable and puts the needs of the community first. Vicky can recite the history of the program, our goals, and the activities we carry out to anyone who asks. She is a true leader and has provided stability through many changes in management and direction. I sat down with Vicky to get her perspective on where Nuru has been, where it is now, and where it is going.
1. Vicky, please tell us about yourself and background.
I’m Victoria Tissian. I’m 26 years old and I’m trained as an ECD teacher and am currently pursuing studies in that direction. I’m Kurian and the elder of four children. I joined Nuru 20 January 2010 where I started as a Field Officer and moved to Education Coordinator, then Field Manager, and finally became program leader in March 2011.
2. Why did you choose to work for Nuru and what does Nuru mean to you?
Being an orphan I grew up with hardships in life and from there I developed the personality of helping. I chose to work with Nuru so as to serve my community. When I was working in Bungoma as a teacher, Jake came for a ceremony of my cousin’s wedding. I was curious to know why the mzungu was in our home and then I asked Dr. Sangai and my uncle and they then explained how Jake had started a project in Kuria that was helping the community. They explained the programs in Nuru, specifically Agriculture, and I developed an interest to come home and serve my community.
Nuru has come to bring light to our community and save us from poverty. It gives us skills. It gives us knowledge. It gives us choice. We are taught about how to come out of poverty. Nuru also teaches us as leaders how to work and how to help every person learn from what you have learned in Nuru.
3. What changes have you seen since you started working with Nuru, both in education and the organization as a whole?
In the organization, we’ve grown. The number is so large now. At the same time, we are now helping so many communities, much more than the beginning. Agriculture is really giving an impact to the community. When you first ask someone about Nuru, the first program they identify is Agriculture and how it’s helping the community. Everyone appreciates what it is doing.
For education, the department has been through so many phases, trials, and experiences. Most of these were geared towards helping out the teachers, since teachers were not trained well. Despite this, it was hard to work with teachers in an effective way. Finally we identified literacy as our poverty indicator and we identified our goal as raising literacy to a Standard 2 level in rural public schools working directly with pupils.
4. What are the key components of Nuru’s outreach program?
Outreach is a major activity and the key components are English literacy workshops. Some of the workshops are reading, writing, and creative workshops. For the team to facilitate all of these effectively and efficiently we get new skills from trainings from our Training Manager.
We have two divisions we work with: Isebania and Mabera. In Isebania, we go twice per month in every class for one hour per class right now. In Mabera, we go to every class there every week for one hour per class. We have a staff of 30 members who split up and work in small groups with pupils. To enhance all of this, we have collaboration with the teachers, community, and pupils themselves because we believe with them we have a reason to be there.
5. What is it about the outreach program that works so well?
It’s effective because we are seeing the impact with the pupils. Pupils are able to comprehend what we are teaching. We’ve had feedback from pupils and teachers that they love when we come. Above all, they acknowledge that reading is improving in their schools. Also, we as a team try to figure out from feedback and observations general behaviors that hinder or help learning in the classes.
6. What is your favorite time or most enjoyable experience at Nuru?
There are many good experiences. Sharing my knowledge with the team. Going out for outreach. The Nuru Days, where we all come together and each program explains their goal to the new foundation team members. It brings all of the members of Nuru together and it enhances team building. Going to the community is the biggest honor and priority. Example: Helping the Healthcare team to give out flyers, joining community members in Agriculture meetings, delivering outreach to pupils, and so forth.
7. When you interact with school officials, what do they say about Nuru’s Education Program?
They are open to our work. They appreciate the fact that we supplement the learning in the schools. They also invite us to all of the meetings with the ministry of education to share the ideologies we have. Sometimes, they have ideas on how we should improve, but we assess if it’s sustainable and scalable and then we explain it to them. For example: We have told them we cannot provide notebooks for all pupils, but we can provide papers for them to write on.
8. Where do you see Nuru’s Education Program heading in the next two years?
We see ourselves scaling to other divisions and wherever we are working, when that time comes in two years, we hope that many pupils in the schools we are working in will be literate.
9. Do you have any other thoughts that you want to share?
I believe in Nuru. I believe in education. I would like to thank all those who help in donations because from that we get nothing but encouragement to serve the community.
About Jimmy Leak
Education Program Strategic Advisor — Dr. Jimmy Leak has designed and managed early grades literacy programs in East Africa. While completing his Ph.D. in Education and Policy and Social Context at the University of California, Irvine, he was named a 2011-2012 Public Impact Fellow for his research on teachers and early grades student achievement.Read More Stories of Hope