It has now been over five years since I started the Kawangware Kids foundation. A lot has happened/changed over the years and for me it has been an interesting learning curve. The most important thing I have had to learn is about the structure of the Kenyan education system and how it impacts the students we are trying to help. The invaluable contributions of Luchiri, our Nairobi director, board members Bernard & Simon, and all the Kenyans who I ask questions of, has helped me to clearly understand the systemic educational challenges our students face.
What I have learned is that our students lack the the type of educational foundation that will make a difference. From families who struggle to feed their children, to poorly run schools in the slums, our students simply are not prepared for the rigors of a classic British secondary education designed for those who will go on to university. Thus they do poorly in secondary school and end up with low grades and a secondary certificate that does them little good in the challenging Nairobi job market. Identifying the issues of course is the first and easiest step, solving the problems is far more complex.
Realizing our students need a better educational foundation, we moved all of our primary students to a private parochial school where they are thriving. This of course comes at a cost as the private school is 6 times more expensive then the previous school; but in our mind it is money well spent and an investment in the future.
Our secondary student solutions are a bit more of a challenge. We finally determined that we needed tutors for all our secondary students and not just any tutor; but a quality educator who can really make a difference. Finally after much research Luchiri found Faith Alpha Court who holds degrees in science and math. Faith and I met when I was in Nairobi in April and discussed in depth how best to help our students. She has now done an assessment of our secondary students, tutored them for 3 weeks, and will be providing more tutoring during the August break. Students have reported to me that this is a good beginning and much appreciate what they are learning. Quality tutors are expensive but again money well spent and an investment in the future.
Another struggle our secondary students face is that classes are taught in English and we have found that many of out students do not comprehend much of what they are taught; they understand the words but often not the meaning. Teaching English comprehension has become a priority for us. In November/December of 2108 (what is called the long term break) myself, a tutor and hopefully a volunteer English teacher will focus on working with our students on English comprehension.
We have also introduced computer learning to our students. In April 2018, I spent almost three weeks in Nairobi where I set up a computer learning center and taught our students the fundamentals of using computers, from keyboarding to server farms and most importantly how to research. It is our intent to use the computers to bridge the gap between what our students learn in school and what they really need to know to succeed in life. It was amazing to watch how quickly the figured things out once they understood the basics. After being set up on the two program computers, the students took over my personal laptop and iPad; this was a very engaged group of students.
How do you measure the success of these efforts? Samuel who is a first year secondary student failed his first term of physics because he couldn't understand the teacher and was afraid to ask for help when he got lost. One of the other students found the syllabus for the physics class and set it up on the computer for Samuel. For four hours Samuel sat at that computer, refused to stop for dinner, and finally completed his review of the entire first term of physics. At the end he looked at me and said "Now I understand."
My next trip to Nairobi will be in November 2018.