TEACHING-EMPOWERING-MENTORING-BUILDING OPPORTUNITY Mission: to partner with individuals and communities in Western Kenya to support entrepreneurial activities, education and health through training programmes, scholarships, water and sanitation projects

Sunday, February 27, 2011

last few weeks

We are closing down most of our programmes. The last spring we protected is pictured here (before and after).
The last two schools for Read for the Top will do their heats and finals next week. I am hoping there will be enough left from the Rotary grant to leave materials for at least one more school. They will read their books over the next few months and do their competition in October.

We have enough funds in our water budget to place a 6,000 litre tank at Kerongo Primary school for water harvesting. The school is in a very rocky area where hand digging is impossible. We can get the tank and guttering in before the start of the rains. They will then have a supply for the next dry season with careful monitoring.

We have been asked to supply text books for a very poor (economically and academically) primary school. On investigation it seems that the former head teacher, possibly the school management committee and some teachers have been diverting the government funding over the past few years, leaving the children with no books. Thanks to the generosity of a donor, we can fill the need and thus help the children. What can be done about the adults remains to be seen.

We are hoping a member of Tembo board who will be here for a few months will agree to monitor the ordering, delivery and control of the new books.

We have made contract agreements with members of our Advisory Committee to pay fees, living allowance and medical needs as and when they arise for some of our sponsored students. The bookkeeping can be a little hairy but Rod has done a great job of making accounts and templates to keep things straight.

We have also agreed to the rental of a small apartment being built on our compound that will house a dedicated office and also be available to guests or those who wish to serve as agents. Don't be intimidated by the scope of what we do. We would welocme anyone who would like to come to rural Kenya for a short period to oversee water or education projects. Contact us through our web site.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Secondary education

Free primary education was brought in eight years ago. The first children to have gone through the painful first years of huge classes and few books or resources are now hitting the secondary level. Secondary day schools are 'free' but most of them do a poor job. The government pays for 'tuition' which is less than 25% of what boarding schools charge for fees. The rest is for infrastructure, boarding of course, school buses, dormitories and 'teacher incentives.'
The examination at the end of class 8 serves to separate the academically stronger students from those who will not receive any further education. Even so, the fees for many are well beyond the family's means.
Most of the charitable scholarship organizations send students to the 'Provincial' schools, many of which do a good job of preparing the majority of students for college level (again if they can meet the fees).
There are at the moment 18 'National' schools which take the highest achievers but charge twice the amount of a Provincial school. (up to $1000 per year rather than $5-600) Most of their pupils come from expensive private schools with small classes and many resources. This year the selection process was changed to limit the number going to a National school from the private sector. Many children from the public sector were offered the plum of a place, but a large number could not afford to take up the opportunity.
Now the government is proposing to create 100 more National schools with a large amount of money set aside for upgrade. These would be schools with a good reputation and potential for enlarging both their intake and their resources.
The unanswered question is: what will the fees be at such schools? Will our scholarship organizations who have students in the schools, be able to maintain them? Will sponsors be willing to double their contributions? And where will the pupils who cannot afford the fees find a place in the reduced number of Provincial schools?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

More benefit from Read for the Top

The Read for the Top competition is allowing teachers to pinpoint the weaknesses in their students. In some schools the facility for answering questions about Swahili books is much more evident than for the English ones. This only underlines the difficulties children will have in answering examination questions which are all in English.

In addition, a teacher pointed out last week that the children could easily answer the factual 'who', 'what' but were uncomfortable with 'how' and 'why'.

For those of you who know Julius through his jewelry, we were in his village school last week where the children had worked hard to earn their T shirts and prizes.

Monday, February 7, 2011

FGM article from the Daily Nation

This is still a huge problem in some areas, making girls as young as 9 or 10 undergo the 'cut' and then marrying them off, thus depriving them of education and of any future save that of caring for their many children and their husband.

I hope you can accesss this link. If it is not highlighted, cut and paste it into your browser. The text only is below.



Parents disown girls for evading ‘the cut’

Cooperative Development assistant minister Linah Kilimo (centre) joins Pokot women in a dance during the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation marked at Makutano Stadium in West Pokot District on February 6, 2011. Photo/JARED NYATAYA

By ERICK NGOBILO engobilo@ke.nationmedia.com
Posted Sunday, February 6 2011 at 20:53

The International Day of Zero Tolerance By ERICK NGOBILO engobilo@ke.nationmedia.com
Posted Sunday, February 6 2011 at 20:53

The International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation was marked on Sunday, but in Mt Elgon District there was little to celebrate.

Many girls have been forced to cut short their studies and married off at a tender age while some of them are still in hiding, disowned by their parents after running away to avoid undergoing the rite.

In December, more than 100 girls targeted to face the knife in region were rescued by Maendeleo ya Wanawake officials.

The girls from Kamuneru Location - some as young as nine - had been threatened with death if they tried to escape.

They underwent guidance and counselling after their escape but they are yet to fully recover from the harrowing experience.

“They said I should never go back home again because I escaped the cut,” said nine-year-old Nelly Cherono amid sobs.

Twelve-year-old Faith Chepkemoi, who sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education last year, said she was supposed to get married soon after she healed.

Not many girls in the area are left to pursue education beyond Standard Eight. And Lily Chebet, 10, was taken to her grandmother’s house to be circumcised.

“They said that if I wasn’t circumcised, I would never get married and that no man would ever want me,” she said.

Chebet was told that education was not meant for women because they were supposed to get married and take care of their husbands.

“I want to finish my education and become a lawyer so that I can protect young girls from my home area,” she said.

Mt Elgon District Maendeleo ya Wanawake chairperson Jennifer Mbatian said some girls were traumatised as they had undergone preparations for the rite.

Mrs Mbatian appealed to the Sabaot community to abandon the practice. “Female genital mutilation is a monster destroying the destiny of the girl child,” she said.

Authorities in the district say FGM is still practised despite government efforts to end it. Uncircumcised women are generally looked down upon and discriminated against.

Therefore, many young girls agree to undergo the rite of passage so that they can be accepted by the community.

According to the latest Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, the prevalence of FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia by traditional circumcisers, lies at 27.1 per cent.

Some 48.8 per cent of circumcised women falling between the ages of 45 to 49 and 14.6 per cent being girls aged between 15 to 19.

Kenya has recorded milestones in fighting the traditional rite, including passing and implementing legal instruments such as the National Policy for the Abandonment of FGM/C, the Children’s Act of 2001 and the Sexual Offences Act of 2006 The Prohibition of FGM Bill 2010 was approved by Speaker Kenneth Marende for publication by the Government Printer and will soon be tabled in Parliament for debate.

Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi, who will table the Bill, says: “If this Bill is approved by Parliament and made into law, then it could be the biggest milestone yet.”

Marakwet East MP Linah Kilimo, who chairs the women parliamentarians’ association that has been involved in the fight against FGM, is optimistic that the Bill will be passed.

However, the women of Mt Elgon say a lot still has to be done in efforts to end the barbaric practice that has destroyed the lives of many young girls.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Read for the Top

The children in the poor rural schools are amazing us all with Read for the Top. They are bright, enthusiastic and fiercely competitive. The group on the left in Esibembe came to us as we waited for our ride home and shyly asked us to take a 'snap' as they drank their sodas. A bottle of pop and a T shirt--the height of riches for these children.

The best school we have seeen so far is Kerongo primary (above) way out in the Maragoli hills. The finals were a ding-dong batle between four strong teams. In this school the Area Education Officer dropped in for a courtesy call, intending to stay ten minutes. She spent two hours with us, totally captivated by the competition, and wants me to do a presentation for all her head teachers. I hope she contacts me before the end of the month.

There were a number of parents present and they had decorated the classroom with bougainvilea twined in the window bars and bowls of flowers on the tables. The judge was a teacher from the neighbouring secondary school and we have agreed to run a pilot for the last year of Secondary (Form 4) to help them revise their set texts.

Here in Hombala (below) we used a classroom for our heats. This was the youngest group so far, but they are equally as sharp and motivated. There is no reason these children could not do exceptionally well in National exams with encouragement and focused teaching.
I have calculated it costs approximately $400 to equip a class with books, bells, T shirts and prizes. This includes a small amount for training the teachers -- not forgetting the soda pop for the winners!
These classes are large, with never less than 50 students. We leave the books and the call bells in the school so the teachers can use the strategy again for another class or even other subject areas. The Maseno area has formed a committee to run Read for the Top in their cluster of schools and conduct an area inter-school final. These schools are using the strategy to help their senior class (Standard 8) review material for the exams. So $400 is a small amount for a far-reaching impact.

seminars, figs and monkeys

While the visiting teachers were in Kenya we took a respite at Rondo Retreat Centre in Kakamega Forest. I hope you can see the detail well enough in this picture to see the monkeys playing and eating the figs. (Click on it to enlarge)

There was lots of hard work too. The evaluations are outstanding. All the particpants are asking for MORE!
I wish this seminar to continue to exist in every January of the new year to sensitize and uplift the teaching style of the teachers
I have not met an instructor better that Jinx Brandt who made mathematics as real and interesting...
There has been a lot of discovery... I have learned a lot.
I have realized that teaching is complex, there is psychology that is not well understood. Thank you for your efforts to have given me this direction.
Kindly let this not be the last in-service. We request that we have more of this to help us be
better teachers.
The seminar should be held again regularly so that the Kenyan teachers should see the need of changing from teacher-centred methods of teaching to learner-centred methods. I’ve really benefited from the instructor and how I wish such teachings to continue,.
Such seminars should be quite often to refresh the teachers on child-centred approach in
teaching and learning processes
What I liked about the seminar is that I was exposed to easy methods of teaching which will enable
my slow learners to enjoy lessons
The strategies are student centred and friendly as they actually involve the student
I liked the new tricks to enhance the learning process and how to make teaching/learning interesting.. The teachers were wonderful, knowledgeable and confident
Mind maps allow the student to be creative and their story will have a nice flow
I have learned a lot and will go and improve my teaching especially when handling a reading lesson..I will take more time to understand my children
I have learned how to teach composition writing, how to tackle a reading lesson and answer comprehension quiz
I have learned the gradual release of responsibility (for learning) which I knew nothing about.
The course has empowered me with new skills on how to teach English as a subject.
For us to make the workshop even more effective we need to be good time managers, avoid lateness We want to learn more because you are more experienced in the field of English than us.
I liked everything. It was WONDERFUL
It has made me a better and more confident English teacher than I came in or was before
The seminar has awakened my spirits in new approaches of handling English which is the key medium of instruction in all subjects
The use of teaching aids impressed me as it drove the point home. Wow! If all teachers taught like this it would be a wonderful world.
Great teachers, ever ready, armed with teaching aids.
They have enabled me to know how to handle a comprehension and library lesson. They have also made me teach children how to write a composition with a lot of ease.

The instrucors taught skills and strategies for group work, more individualised learning and 'child centred' education. Kenyan teachers in the past have relied on rote learning and 'chalk and talk' but are moving to different methods. They have few books and often no power in the schools, so we wanted to help them use the resources they have.

We received some 150 participants. Since Kenya does not have 'homeroom' teachers as such, but all teachers meet several different classes for various subjects, we calculate that each of these teachers will have contact with about 100 children. So in our three weeks we will have reached about 15,000 students. And that is just this year. Not counting future years as teachers practice and develop their skills.

Update (long overdue)

The last two weeks of January were very busy. I am going to try recapping some of the activities with a variety of pictures.

When the teachers arrived from the US to conduct the seminars, the Tembo Advisory Board gathered at the Sports Club to welcome them

Johnstone, our medical student, proudly wore his Arsenal shirt

Norm is volunteering for CHES right now in Kakamega and is a member of Tembo. He is pictured here with Isabella, who is one of our successful students and helps out with office and
secretarial duites