Big Smiles As More Kids in Kenya Fall in Love With Reading
Sharon Langevin, Worldreader’s partnership development manager, Joseph Botwey, operations manager for Ghana, and Muthoni Muhunyo, publishing associate for East Africa, were recently at the Heritage Academy in Kenya to help launch an e-reader program sponsored by Village Project Africa.
The school, which started as pre-school in 2007 and expanded into a primary school in 2010, serves 560 children; the Kindles at the school will be used by Class 5 and 6 students.
Here’s Sharon’s story about the teacher and student training and the community event.
Jambo from Likuyani, Kakamega County, Kenya!
Day 1 began with a meeting to discuss the goals of the project at Heritage Academy. Margaret, the founder and president of Village Project Africa, Davis, Village Project Africa’s program director and some of Heritage Academy’s teaching staff attended.
The teachers agreed that they want to see students improve in their English reading, writing and comprehension skills. They also want to change their students’ attitudes about reading to focus more on reading for pleasure, and for them to gain the technical skills they need to fit into modern society. They plan to form reading clubs and hold reading competitions to increase student excitement about reading.
We spent the rest of the day with Martha, the project manager, and her two assistants, Mapesa and Ruth. After a full day of technical training and discussion on project management, we sent all three of them home with their devices and the manuals for more practice.
Day 2 was teacher training day. We had eight teachers in total. Martha, Mapesa and Ruth led the session, and they trained Salim, the head teacher; Juma, the deputy head teacher, and teachers Antony, Kenneth and Nashon.
We started out with the newly renamed “Pre-Survey” to see if any of the teachers had any prior e-reader knowledge, and moved through the entire training manual by the end of the day. The teachers were tired but eager to take their e-readers home for more practice. Martha, Mapesa and Ruth did a fantastic job preparing the teachers for the student training.
The next morning, Day 3, each of the teachers practiced teaching from the training manual. It was fantastic to see how much they had learned in just 24 hours! Toward the end of the morning, we were fortunate to receive a visit from the project’s donors and supporters, who wanted a sneak peek into what it is like to participate in an e-reader training.
In the afternoon, we divided Class 6 into two groups and assigned teams of three teachers to train each group. The students were so excited about the e-readers that they could hardly stop themselves from skipping ahead during the training.
One student, a 15-year-old boy (on left in photo below), who is relatively new to Heritage, was brought back to school after having been teased so much by his former classmates that he refused to go to school. He is determined to learn how to read, and believes that the e-reader will help him achieve his goal even faster. The very successful student training session ended with each student selecting a storybook to read and sharing a summary with the class.
When we arrived at the school the next day, the multi-purpose room was buzzing with activity as the teachers and staff set up for the launch ceremony.
The ceremony started with a procession from the field into the multi-purpose room, followed by student readings and dance performances, speeches and the presentation of certificates. Highlights included a fabulous dance performance (they are headed to a regional competition in a few weeks) and a speech from the guest of honor, the District Centre for Early Childhood Education (DICECE) Officer for Lugari District. He emphasized the importance of reading, noting that Kenya has been focused on alleviating poverty and disease, but that if they focus on providing quality education, the other problems will be resolved.
We finished up the event with Margaret thanking the donors and the presentation of certificates, and the students demonstrated the use of the e-reader to all of the parents in attendance.
We had a wonderful four days working with Village Project Africa and Heritage Academy. A heartfelt thanks to all of the teachers and staff for their hard work. Students were so eager to read their e-readers that we had trouble getting them to stop so that we could take a few photos!