The Education Team has successfully launched the outreach program in 6 schools throughout Nyametaburo and Nyangiti sub-locations. For the first few weeks, the outreach efforts consisted of reading hours – a program designed to stimulate listening comprehension, increase vocabulary, establish a love of reading and create an open environment in which the kids can explore books.
During the first few weeks of outreach, the team also set out to establish a literacy baseline for our area. Using the Uwezo literacy assessment tool, we are assessing 50% of the boys and 50% of the girls at Sirori Simba to understand where they stand now. We intend to assess again 6 months after we establish the baseline to see the impact of our programs on the literacy levels.
Literacy is a not a familiar term out here and teachers are curious to see if our assessment of a child’s literacy level correlates to their overall performance. Some teachers are also shadowing the outreach classes, curious to see the team’s approach and the content of the lessons. The teachers have started to ask the team for ways to improve literacy among their students. This curiosity and appeal for advice is something we anticipated to come after a few months of working with the schools, but it has been an immediate byproduct of our outreach efforts and literacy assessments. This is a great development because it means that the teachers could begin to emphasize literacy as well and restructure their lessons to ensure that all children are able to read and understand.
Every day, the team meets to give one another feedback about the day’s outreach sessions. They share impressions, lessons learned and ideas. The team members shadow each other throughout the day, attending classes in pairs and usually shadowing for part of the class and then splitting the class to enable small group learning and more focused attention.
One of the biggest realizations the team has gained through these shadowing and feedback sessions so far is that teachers here repeat information and then ask the students to repeat, in unison, the last word of their sentence. For example, a teacher might say, “Today I am going to read you a book. Today I am going to read you a book. Today I am going to read you a ….?” The students will say “a book”. When that last, triggered word is more complicated or represents a new concept, students often make the general sound of the word. This process deadens critical thinking, prevents independent thought and represents a moment when many students get lost and fail to grasp the concept. The team is recognizing their own tendency to resort to these types of questions. They are working to shed that habit and ask open ended questions, questions to individuals and questions that require creative or more abstract answers. Shadowing one another helps them identify this trait, become more self-aware and give each other feedback to help root out the behavior.
With the shift in teaching style, the students’ behavior has radically changed in a short amount of time. They are more engaged and willing to participate. They are bolder and more willing to take risks. They are asking lots of questions. Students are staying after class to ask questions or talk about what they learned. They stop the Education Team on the roads and cow paths to ask them deeper questions about the stories or the topics raised in the class. These changes represent a huge, positive shift in the classroom environment. Teachers are beginning to take notice and ask to sit in on the classes or get tips from our team on alternative teaching methodology.
With the outreach programs up and running, we are focused on slowly rolling out the various initiatives and on constantly learning from our experiences and applying what we have learned to make the programs stronger and more impactful. We are also preparing to launch the learning center in August and scale the outreach programs to 7 more schools in September. As we prepare the programs for this growth, we are also preparing and growing the team. Today, we will extend job offers to 3 Education Field Officer candidates, 1 Dairy Field Manager and 1 Dairy Field Officer.
The Education Field Managers come to us with diverse experience. They are very smart, capable and compassionate people all with a deep, genuine commitment to community development and poverty alleviation. I look forward to working with each of them and seeing how their unique perspectives will contribute to our team’s growth.
We will be transitioning the dairy farm management to the Dairy Field Manager and Field Officer. These two men are outstanding and have the perfect blend of experience and community-centered motivation. Transitioning the dairy farm to good hands is an exciting turning point for our team as it will free us up to focus solely on the education programs.
I would like to leave you with a few comments on creativity that I wrote down as we interviewed potential Education Field Officers. We asked them what creativity means to them and why they think it is important to child development. I found the answers interesting and thought you might too.
- Creativity is when you bring to existence what was not there before. – Joshua Chacha Muhiri
- Creativity is using your mind to make things which have not been made. – Esther Nyahiri Masana
- Creativity is something in every person young or old. It’s something original. – Nyamweya George Nyameri