It was tough yesterday to have to say goodbye to all the beautiful teachers, students and friends I have made at Great Joy Education Centre.
This is a beautiful school on the outskirts of Eldoret, Kenya, founded by athlete Abel Kirui. The vision is to give children a chance for a brighter future, providing them with access to cheaper quality education and seeking sponsors for those children from poorer families that can’t afford to pay school fees. A huge thank-you to the Lee Sisters foundation for setting me up with this very rewarding opportunity.
I have been at Great joy for 6 weeks, mostly teaching English in classes from grade 2-8. I was in high demand by students so I tried to share myself around. I really enjoyed teaching the classes and getting to know the students and helping them perfect their English and learn about grammar. The students taught me a lot as well, and a lot about myself. It was truly special to be so popular at this school with the young children following me around, and chasing me when I ran, or all the students trying to get a quick touch of my arm or my hair as I marked their work. The students made things for me, wrote stories or drew pictures of me and I can say they all have great potential and a thirst to learn. Everyday at this school way filled with laughs with the teachers and children, it truly was a great joy 🙂
I also had some opportunities to teach them things they have never been exposed to or even though about. We talked about differences around the world, all things that could be different in the western world to Africa and what could possibly the same. It was exciting to be able to share what I have learnt about the world while traveling with these young minds.
The school has been operating for only 6 years but has come a long way since it first opened its gate. It has had challenges where students fell down to only 40, but today it sits at nearly 280 students. They have also seen an increase in overall academic marks in the last couple of years.
They still face so many challenges, making it very hard for them to get ahead. So to try to give them a plan for the future I provided feedback in my last week on what I noticed could be improved. I see a bright future for Great Joy, bit by bit they will grow into a very successful school, educating the future leaders.
Some of the plans include:
- Desks in classrooms for teachers so that the teachers could remain in he classroom when they had work to do, rather than escaping to the staff room every chance they have. At the moment they teach a short lesson from the text book, write an activity on the board and then leave the class to themselves while they complete the task. I believe a desk in the classroom will encourage the teachers to remain present and available to their students and be able to monitor and support their class. The teachers can’t be blamed for this, they do the best with what they have and their experience.
- Invest in materials for the children, from either school fees or asking parents to purchase text books so that students can follow along in class and homework. As well as dictionaries, encyclopedias and tools like pens, pencils, rubbers and sharpeners. This will create a lot more of a productive environment for the students.
- PE lessons at the moment are just children sent to the back field to run around or sit and wait as they please. There is only one old soccer ball between all of these students. They need either more equipment or a set supervised class where they develop their skills.
- In the 6 weeks that I was at Great Joy they had 3 exam blocks! This is about 3 days in each block to do an exam on each subject. This concerned me that they are constantly under pressure to do well in exams, but when do they have time to learn the content? I have suggested less exams, and more monitoring in class and home work. I have also suggested projects or presentations and another form of assessment. This will help the students develop their understanding, vocabulary and confidence.
- I had a couple of heart wrenching and confronting experiences while I was at Great Joy with children being punished with the cane. It was a difficult situation to be in but I had to do something. I held a meeting with the teachers to talk about the damages they can be causing to their relationships with the students and the learning environment. I have given them all lots of alternatives to use if they feel like a penalty is necessary.
- Currently cows and chickens roam the school yard freely. This is where young children play and eat. I have encouraged the directors to arrange for a proper fence to keep them in their own area in the back field, away from students. The milk and eggs are used for the students in the boarding section of the school.
- One priority that the directors and have taken on board is the development of a library for the school in the near future. This will provide students with access to the resources they need for their classes, assignments and general story books for them to practice reading. Books are such a great way for them to learn and develop from books they are interested in. I love this, I cannot wait to see this happen!
There are so many things that we take for granted in our world. Our education system and quality schools is one of them. Especially as teenagers, I know most of us probably complained about going to school. These kids work so hard to get to high school, it is not a guarantee, they have to get good marks to be allowed in. They also face the difficulty of their families being able to afford the school fees, over having them leave school and help them on the farm or in the markets. If you would like to support children like this for a brighter future you can sponsor here through the Lee Sisters foundation: http://leesisters.org/sponsor-a-child/