Tina reports from Kenya
June 10, 2011 By Tina Tam
Supa! That is one of the ways the Maasai people say hello.
Kenya is a strikingly beautiful country. The gorgeous landscape combined with the temperate and sunny weather makes it quite pleasant and spectacular. A few weeks ago, I set off for Kilgoris with the rest of the Worldreader team for teacher training.
Every day we went to the school to prepare teachers for the first e-reader rollout in East Africa. Our “students” included 13 teachers from several different schools in the area and the school principal. Interacting with the kids (who were usually smiling at us shyly but with endless curiosity), talking with the locals, and learning about the culture of the Maasai tribe and Kenya in general were an extraordinary experience. Everyone was extremely friendly and pleasant, and we began and ended with songs each day.
The most rewarding part of the experience was getting to know the teachers and to witness their learning and progression as the week went on.
Before the first day of the training the teachers had never even seen an e-reader. By the end of the week, they were teaching each other and their students the ins and outs of the e-reader during practice sessions. Many of them also downloaded a dozen of books of their choice.
During lunch on the second day I had a very pleasant conversation with four female teachers of various ages. They were curious about me and as I was describing my background to them my immediate reaction was that my world was completely different from theirs. Having just learned about some of their customs and traditions, some of which would be considered unthinkable from the Western perspective, the somewhat ignorant part of me expected disapproval from these women that I am so far away from my family and have not been married or have any children. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed to hear not just their approval but more importantly their views on how important education is for women. They shared with me different stories of women in their families prioritizing education. (But of course, the occasional joke about the size of my dowry was unavoidable. Fortunately, Zev our beloved Director of Research gleefully volunteered to be my representative on those matters while my family was not present.)
The week ended with a closing ceremony. The teachers’ faces lit up with pride when they were reminded that they were the first group in all of Africa to receive this training that would enable the children of Africa to receive better education. In the end, they presented to us small gifts during a traditional song and dance ceremony. The energy and joy were overwhelming.
Tina, an MBA/MS student at the University of Michigan, has been interning at the Worldreader headquarters since January and is currently working on the ground at our project sites in both Kenya and Ghana.