‘‘We could not afford to lose the knowledge that was so impactful’ remarked Mr. Mwaka, the head teacher, Arap Moi primary school during the stakeholders meeting held in June 2022 in Tana River County.
Arap Moi Primary school is one of the public schools located in Kipao location, Tana Delta sub-County of Tana River County. It is one of the schools that benefited from the Accelerated learning program, a program which was implemented by Zizi Afrique and Safaricom Foundation from 2018 to April 2022 and targeted learners who were lagging in foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) competences in grade 3-5. Arap Moi was onboarded to the in the year 2020. The program aimed at hastening acquisition of the FLN competencies of these learners by assessing them to ascertain their levels, grouping and subjecting them to level-based activities within a period of 30-50 days.
‘‘I used to admire what was happening in other schools which had been in the program before us and was wondering how we missed out from being selected,’’ Mr. Mwaka said jokingly during the stakeholders meeting in Tana Delta.
The program engaged a teacher assistant (TA), to support the learners at the school level for 2 hours every day; one hour for literacy and another one hour for numeracy with an aim of helping them to gain the required competencies to ‘catch up’ with the rest in class. The program was implemented in three counties of Turkana, Tana River and Bungoma. The selection of these three counties, was informed by the 2015 Uwezo report which ranked them among the bottom counties where children had low learning outcomes in both literacy and numeracy.
Being the last phase of the program, the County stakeholders came together to discuss ways of strengthening sustainability measures that were already in schools, and to explore other new measures for the program. During the meeting, I had an opportunity to catch up with Mr.Mwaka, since his school had started training the regular teachers as one of the sustainability measures, and this is what he had to say;
Why are you so passionate about the Accelerated Learning program?
The Accelerated Learning Program has changed the brands that most of our children who were lagging in literacy and numeracy were being called, such as, dunderheads, Dwarfs among other demeaning names. Most of these learners got an opportunity to join the program and from our records, they are currently doing very well in their regular classroom, something that no one ever thought could happen. Honestly, I love the teaching approach since learners are taught at their learning levels, the materials are interesting and learning quite fun. If you look at the teacher assistants, they are well prepared to manage these learners in a friendly manner.
What provoked you to have your teachers trained on the Accelerated Learning approaches?
Following the initial assessment that was conducted to identify learners for the intervention, the results showed that several children were still lagging in numeracy and literacy, however the teacher assistant was only required to manage 25 learners in a session. Several learners were going to be locked out from the intervention, yet they also had a need and could benefit from the approach. As a school, we had to sit down with the other regular teachers to find a solution. First, was to make my teachers understand that indeed there was a problem as evident by the assessment results and secondly, the need to step in to support this process. For sure someone had to step in immediately to at least reduce the learning crisis that we were all staring at.
The parents pushed me as well. News spread in the community about the program and parents started streaming to the school demanding to know why their children were not enrolled, yet they also had gaps in reading. We had to find out a solution to this.
How did you convince your teachers to take up the training?
Like I said earlier, I had to convene a meeting with the regular teachers, during which we agreed that all of us needed skills and knowledge on how to implement the Accelerated learning approaches. I had to quickly call Maridhiano CBO, the local implementing partner, to request if they could support in training the regular teachers. I am glad that they did not hesitate .10 teachers from my school were trained and 6 others from the neighboring schools. Our area Curriculum support officer was also in attendance, and we are grateful for his continued support
I understand you had other teachers from the neighboring schools.
Yes, true. I extended the invitation to them. When something is good it is always advisable to share with other people so that they can equally benefit. You see it is about our children and when they do well, we all celebrate their success. When I look back,I do not regret training my teachers because we are already seeing the impact of this training, and again with the grant period of the program ending, the approaches will still be alive in our school and there will be no gap left if the TA is withdrawn by the program.
What can you tell other headteachers outside there?
Training of regular teachers is the way to go. Let us ensure that our regular teachers remain with the skills and knowledge even with the grant period of the program ending. If possible, those who can sustain the teacher assistants can do so. Most of them have seen the impact of the program hence the need to have it up and running in our schools. It is all for the interest of our children of ensuring they improve their learning outcomes and their dignity restored.
What is your parting shot Mr.Mwaka?
Mine is just to say a big thank you to Safaricom Foundation, Zizi Afrique Foundation and Maridhiano CBO for such an amazing program. May God Bless you.
Arap Moi Primary School is one of the schools which did very well in the last Kenya certificate of Primary Education despite the challenges of inadequate classrooms. ‘‘If we had enough facilities, we could have done much better that this. But still, we cannot sit down and watch our children come to school and not learn. Acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy is important, and this should be given the weight it deserves’’.
Ongoing class under a tree at Arap Moi Primary school in Tana Delta
Irene Chepng’etich is a Program Officer at Zizi Afrique Foundation, For feedback, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org