I have been teaching at Great Joy now for 3 weeks, and it has flow by! At first, I took a bit of a back seat, simply observing the classes, how the teachers taught and how the students learnt. I adore the children, they are so bright and pick things up quickly, they all have sweet characters and are so much fun in lessons. The little ones follow me around everywhere!
It was easy for me to step in and teach when I noticed grammar, spelling or pronunciation errors, although sometimes it wasn’t so easy to articulate why they were wrong. For the Kenyans, English is their third language after Kiswahili and their local tribal language. I had to applaud them for that and could appreciate their errors. From what I could tell their English wasn’t so bad, after-all I could understand everything they were saying, even if at times they used incorrect terminology or pronunciation or even their very proper English used made me laugh. For example, when I was getting on a ‘boda boda’(motorbike) the other day I was told to ‘take my position’ hehe. Or when I saw a sign that had obviously been lost in translation saying “Vibrator for hire” hahahahaha
Overall their English wasn’t bad I though. Until last week we had exams and it turns out that the school average for English, grades 4-8 is below 50%! Oh no! this put me into a panic! What am I going to do? English is he countries official language and will help them a lot in getting a good job and supporting and uplifting their family and economy. Since then I haven’t been sleeping so well. I only have 3 weeks left at this school, how am I going to help? Obviously, I will teach as many English classes as possible, but even then, it won’t be much per class over only 3 weeks, will this really do much? Not enough!
Another thing I need to do is help the teachers with their English, obviously this is where the students learn the majority of their English. But how can I help when they mostly speak Swahili in the staff room. This week I am going to have to stand up and make a point of it, if I am to help the children, I have to help them too and to help them I need to hear their English.
This alone won’t be enough, I have noticed that the children don’t have text books to follow along the lesson and as we know everyone has different learning styles. How are they to learn by just sitting, listening to the teachers and then writing out homework? They don’t have dictionaries either and so how are they to know the definitions of words that they don’t recognise. Their parents are paying fees for these schools, these children are from families better off than others in the country but their parents need to invest in their education if it is to be a quality one and this is to buy them the books and materials they need. However, it is not that easy, for most families the children’s education is not a priority, even if, in the end they will be the ones to pull them up in the future. Culturally the children will be the ones to support their families once they complete their education and get a good job. For this school I would like to see a library with text books, dictionaries, encyclopedias and even story books for the children to learn. This may involve a small increase in school fees but still less than other schools in the area. A small price which will help the library to grow slowly but overtime there will be more and more books for the children to come.
This got me thinking, what about the schools that are worse off? For example, schools in the slums like in Tassia slums that I had visited in Nairobi. These schools are run for free, depending on kind donations from the community or charity organisations. How can we improve their learning? How can we get them books?
Here’s me idea: We need to get books into schools, we can’t just rely on people taking them over, it’s not sustainable and books are heavy! but where will the books come from? Tourists! Most travellers that come to Africa either carry books to read on their long Safaris and trips by road or they want to help and give back. I would like to put it out there that we could set up book donation bins in popular hotels in main cities in Kenya. We could even link up with tour companies to collect the passenger’s books when they are finished with them and leave them at popular hotels along the way. They could then be collected by teachers from schools in need. If the passengers don’t plan on carrying books we could perhaps ask that as a way of giving back they bring along a dictionary or encyclopedia as a donation, only if they want to. The info for this could be included in the passenger’s tour itinerary or ‘what to pack’ list.
To go one step further I could help to get these hotels registered on Pack for a Purpose where people can see the projects in their areas and what the projects are in need of so that they can contribute in a way that is helpful. These hotels could be registered to support schools in the area and list things in need such as book and even soccer balls (currently Great Joy has 2 balls between 275 children). What do you think? I am desperate to help but not sure of how, if you have any feedback or anyway you can help please let me know! We need to set it up in a way that is sustainable so the schools can continue to have support long after I leave.