It was the last day of workshops at Utumishi Academy in the Naivasha district and one of our Kenyan facilitators sat in front of me with tears welling up in his eyes. This was a teacher who was part of the workshops last year, and this year worked with us, teachers from North America, as a facilitator. He is an excellent teacher and a valuable member of the team. It would be difficult for us to go our separate ways.
Last year’s experience in the Naivasha district was a wonderful one. The members of Teachers Without Borders Canada presented their first series of workshops to both secondary and primary teachers in this district. We were very well received and the experience was very much a growing experience for all of us. This year, as part of our effort to build capacity in our Kenyan colleagues, some of these teachers became part of the TWBC team in planning the workshops. The Kenyan teachers helped to deliver the workshops in front of their colleagues. A few of them confessed to being nervous about it, but also how valuable a learning experience it was.
We in North America have so much in our schools. There are many times during the year when we can attend a workshop or an in-service. In Kenya this is rare. To have colleagues from different schools come together to discuss some aspect of education just doesn’t happen as it does here. To actually stand in front of colleagues and lead a session is even more unique.
Last year we visited the Laikipia district in northern Kenya, but did not deliver any workshops there. This year we returned to this district to deliver our workshops for the first time. The Kenyan teachers were also from primary and secondary schools. As was the case last year in Naivasha, the experience was enriching and valuable.
Working with the North American colleagues was also very positive for me. As was the case last year, we really met each other personally for the first time in Kenya, though we did plan together at a distance. We were able to work together very well and this for me is a mark of professionalism. An added opportunity in the Naivasha district was working with the Kenyan facilitators in planning and delivering the workshops. This also went very well and speaks to the professionalism of all the teachers who were involved.
East Africa faces many challenges. The extended drought has placed even more stress on the school system. For many students, the meal they receive at the school is the only meal they have in their day. One of the principals we worked with worked hard during the summer months to continue providing meals for students even though they were out during their summer break. At times, the dust from our road trips was so pervasive that we had to close the windows of our vehicle to prevent clouds of the choking particles from invading our space. Evidence of poverty is everywhere. Yet the Kenyan teachers persist. Despite their long hours, huge classes, and lack of resources, they persist. They must do so for the benefit of their students. This is very inspiring.
Kenya has left its mark on me. We as members of Teachers Without Borders Canada must continue in the valuable work that we do. Are we helping to close the educational divide? You betcha. For the young teacher who had tears in his eyes, I suspect he will stay in education a long time and Kenya will be stronger because of him.