Starting a New Teaching Job in Kenya

Having read through the Form 1-4  (American equivalent of Grades 9-12) Kenyan Curriculum (briefly) as I began to cross correlate areas where teachers could collaborate, I found that most likely, except for AP classes, the American curriculum, by  relative comparison is pretty WEAK.   Many of the items contained in the Kenyan curriculum appear to be beginning college level in the U. S.   Kenyan’s study so diligently as they know, for certain, an education is the only true thing that will break poverty  cycles. The teachers and the learners know this in their core of being.  It also now makes sense why my Kenyan friends who did graduate work in the U.S. at Ivy’s  fared so well – they have been shown how and why to study.  Education is perhaps more fundamental in Kenya than religion.  I am trying to understand how this idea could be brought back to the states.   I believe one must see extreme poverty to understand the phenomenon of change.  While the U.S. has pockets of poverty, nothing is abject as what one will find on the continent of Africa.

I can only say that my teachers and learners inspire me daily with their desire to know ever more and ask abundant questions.  The level of passion for education is demonstrable and should I come back to the U.S. to teach, I can only hope my students in the U.S. can find the will to inspire themselves- obviously it can be done, it is a choice and Kenyan’s have made a decision about their self efficacy.

Our days run in the following manner:

Learners wake up at 5:30 AM to shower, do laundry (by hand as water is a limited commodity), eat breakfast and do some morning studying to prep for any quizzes, tests, etc. which will occur that day.  Classes begin at 8:00 AM and  there is a tea break at 11:30 AM for 20 minutes.  Lunch is at 1:30 PM for  ½ hour.  Classes resume until  4:00 PM.  Learners have games (sports) on M and W from 4:30-5:30 PM and clubs/extra curricular activities on T-Th from 4-5:30 PM.  After games and activities, learners go back to the hostel (dorm) to freshen up which is both washing up, laundry and room cleaning.  Dinner is at 6:30PM and M-F, there is prep (study and time to ask teachers for additional help) from 7:00 PM until 8:30 PM for Forms 1-2 and until 9:30 PM for Forms 3-4.  Learners in forms 1-2 may stay up later for studying, however, lights out by 10:30 PM.

My day begins at 6:00 AM and runs until I can no longer hold my head up as I am ¼ km from the school and can eat lunch and dinner at school, thereby committing my efforts to working with teachers and learners.   The cycle of sunrise and sunset is much more natural here (longer daylight due to my proximity to the equator) and the food far more healthy (that will be in another blog).  Perhaps I have found satisfaction and happiness due to the  sincerity and seriousness of the learning, along with the incredible sense of humor people have here.  Humor tends to be neither Western or British, rather, it is its own look at the world around us.  Analogies abound here.

Saturday is prep/study for 4 hours.  Sunday includes church in the morning and debate (Cambridge Style) in the afternoon and then relaxing time or prep as need be.   I must confess, I gave my learners this Sunday (23 August 2009) off in the afternoon to rest and drink water as we have had a round of flu. There does not seem to be any H1N1, although the flu is just nasty no matter what variety it is, particularly more so when water is a luxury.

Since I am at an all girls school, there is much less mischief than may be at a combined (both female/male) school, however, the learners are a fun bunch.  We had movie night and it was quite fun – after a long week, the learners do want to just relax a bit and laugh.

My learners have a true interest in the world – they can talk politics with the best of them.  My teachers are extraordinary. Having observed them teach and even explain maths/science, they are a wonderful resource for me to improve my practice.  Since Kiswahilii and English are both equal in the eyes of language (learners need to learn a third language for their “2nd language requirement”), I need to clean up myself on English.  British English is the form and clearly I have much more slang in me.