Every year the Ministry of Education hosts Education Day, a celebration designed to commend teachers and pupils for their hard work. Nuru was invited to show our support of the students and acknowledge our partnership with the Ministry. Sabora and I took the 45 minute boda ride down the very bumpy and dusty road to Ikerege to attend. We were advised to arrive around 1:00 pm though the program clearly stated that the event started at 9:00 am and should end at 1:00 pm.  Upon our arrival, we found a VIP tent full of Ministry officials and head teachers and a side tent for teachers and assorted guests. Students from schools throughout the Kuria West district were sprawled across the sun-soaked yard, mostly dozing off or trying to create shade.

We registered and then watched as men launched into a series of speeches aimed at setting the stage for the guest of honor, the District Education Officer. The speeches were long and flattered the contributions of the Ministry and teachers. The speakers faced the VIP tent and continued with long-winded deliveries even when the microphone failed and they could not be heard – one man talked for more than 40 minutes about the proposed constitution without any mention of education. Meanwhile, the students melted further into the ground… taking naps or sneaking off to play soccer. As Sabora and I sat in the hot sun unable to hear any of the speeches, I got to thinking about motivation in an educational system that is suffering from bloated egos, laziness and a lack of sufficiently qualified leaders.

Sabora and I had purchased a program of the event which presented rankings and national test scores for all schools in the district. In it, the DEO’s preamble mentioned the top 8 challenges he has identified as priorities in the Kuria West district. They are:

  1. Shortage of teaching staff
  2. Increased number of orphans leading to difficulties in the learning process
  3. Imprudent management of resources
  4. Dishonest[y] in national examinations
  5. Low performance in schools
  6. Early marriages and FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) which have led to drop-outs
  7. Inadequate teaching and learning resources in some schools
  8. Total teacher commitment to professional service delivery

I was impressed to see that the Ministry publicly recognized the lack of commitment and professionalism demonstrated by many education professionals here. And yet, two hours later various Ministry representatives were still delivering speeches to introduce the honored guest without any mention of students or possible solutions to these admitted challenges. Sabora and I took our leave, sending a note to the DEO thanking him for inviting us and expressing our appreciation for his partnership. I resolved to meet with our team about the results presented in the report and brainstorm ways to improve teacher/staff motivation.

In the report, Taragwiti ranks near the bottom in almost all areas. Out of the 104 schools in the district, Taragwiti has the second highest decrease in national test (KCPE) score performance. Their 2009 mean KCPE score was 167.13 out of a possible 500 points, down from an already low 221.71 last year.  Teacher motivation is paramount to improving these schools.

School Ranking

With that in mind, the education team conducted a brainstorm to that end. We wanted to focus on ways to motivate teachers without giving them financial incentives. How can we improve the quality of the work environment, how can we inspire them…? Here are some of the ideas the team came up with:

Education Brainstorm

We will work to incorporate some of these ideas and others into our sponsored school to improve teacher participation. Changes like these will help catapult Taragwiti students’ performance in a positive direction.  I hope to see Taragwiti on the list of “most improved” schools next year rather than the list of “most dropped.”