Sunday, 4 March 2012

How was your High School experience like?


In 2009, when Mwaura organized a surprise Graduation
party for me. He was so excited that i got a First Class!
Every time I think of the young people in Africa, my heart cries out to them.  Education is one of the reasons why. I received an email from my elder brother today, which reminded me of my high school experience. Haron Kamau Mwaura,  known to many as Mr Mwaura, is my best memory of my high school experience. He is my senior brother, has assumed the role of my father since 1996, he taught me for 4 years in Kilungu High school, he was my Hockey coach, the best teacher I ever had, and he is the father to my lovely nephews Berrack, Neem and Ribbii. He is the most excited and inspired person about my progress in academic journey

After completing his undergraduate degree at Egerton University, Mwaura was posted by the government as a TSC teacher to Kilungu High School in 1998,  and I joined him as his student in 1999. He first taught me Agriculture, then Biology, he was my coach in the Hockey team, and the best friend to all my classmates. He is the only teacher whom the students spared the agony of nicknaming. Instead, he is the one who nicknamed us. He still calls me by my high school nickname ‘Msichana’ meaning young girl- i was too tiny to be called a big girl then! Being the School' Games captain at that time, it was hard to get his office vacant at any one day of the week, if we were not chatting with him we were then hiding in his office to read, or still, we were playing around with him! He had a way of keeping each one of us so close to him, inspiring us, and more so, guiding us through out teenage fantasies, and high school education. Looking at his Facebook page, you will see the positive comments always posted by his former students, they always remember him of one good thing he did to them. He also frequently posts his daily encounters as a teacher.
Being a government employee,  Mwaura was transferred in 2007 from this 800-student Kilungu to a 200-student Kyuasini Day High School in Wote and was promoted to a Deputy Principal. This was a challenge for him, having established very good relationships with students, settling his family in a rather rural and hardship area in Nunguni, now he had to relocate to yet another remote part of the province. This was not important, to him anyway, I remember him saying how he was fascinated by his students, and that’s the only thing that mattered. As a result of his efforts, his school emerged the best Day school in the county in 2011, with the best boy scoring an A in the National examination-KCSE in 2010. I remember his Facebook updates of how parents had stormed the school to celebrate the success. This is what made him happy- the excellence of  his students!
At the same time, Mwaura started publishing educational books in Biology for use by his students with Longhorn Publishers. To him, this was one way he could add value to his teaching, It was a another way to motivate him to continue teaching and transforming the lives of his students. He recently started his own publishing company with an aim to help those interested in publishing educational books.
Two days ago, he was promoted to be a Principal. Not in the same school Kyuasini, but another yet rural school, Ukia Day High school. I just received his email with the details of his new post.
The very email Mwaura sent me in a rush

Being a principal is prestigious, but the situations under which you have to work are not. Mwaura has been posted to a school with only 78 students in all the 4 classes, only 2 complete classrooms, and he is the only government staff! the rest of the teachers are paid my the parents. He is going to carry his own chair from home, as there is none in the school. There is no desk for him either.  This now withstanding, my brother concludes his email by saying that “I will start by teaching them, then other things will sort themselves out”. This spells out the passion he has for his clients- the students.

This is the reality of education in some parts of Kenya, it can be worse in other parts like the Northern Kenya. Ukia High School is in Makueni County with a poverty rate of 63.8%. Although the government provides free primary and secondary education to all government schools, there are major challenges with ensuring infrastructure, and staffing in most schools. The current teacher: student ratio is 1:50 in comparison to the internationally recommended on of 1:35. Most government schools face a major challenge of infrastructure and parents have been made to carry this burden most times.

The challenge now is not how to only how we transform the education system in Kenya, but its about how we motivate students to believe that they can make it in education regardless of their situations. It is about giving them the positive perception of life after High school. It’s about widening their scope of thinking so can effectively contribute to the development of this school and the community in the future. It’s about empowering the students who desperately need to the potential to challenge the system to provide better services to the society. 

This is what Mwaura and other teachers like him in Kenya, and many developing countries, are yearning to do everyday of their lives. Despite the challenges he has to wake up to everyday, he is optimistic that he is doing so for the benefit of a future generation. He has  hope that things will get better once he has started doing his small part. Some of his Facebook comments like this, are an evidence that he truly seeks out to educate and empower his students. He is a true picture of how passionately teachers can transform our high school experiences.
And this is my challenge to you for today: calling up to you to join my campaign to motivate Mwaura and his teacher colleagues to continue motivating students to work hard in school, but also ensuring that they do so in a conducive environment. We all can start small by supporting Ukia High school, the 78 pupils, and their parents.  If there is something you remember your high school experience, how about passing on a small percentage of that experience to someone else. 
As Mwaura starts teaching in his new school tomorrow, here are some suggestions of what we can do this together: 
  1. Send him, and any other teacher you know, a message to encourage him to keep on doing the great work of empowering young people through education. Despite the limited government support, they are still passionate about their work!
  2. Highlight this case in the t media houses so that the Kenyan government is challenged on providing equal opportunities to all schools in Kenya. It would be good to get the word going around, and making is public so that the issue can reach higher levels of decision-making. Some of the Kenya media houses have a lot of power and they can even call the Minister of Education and others concerned to intervene. Governments have the lasting solution to the education system, and so they should be held accountable if we have to be sustainable in our actions.
  3. Taking a day off your safari/work/business trip to Kenya and speaking to the students and parents/teachers to motivate them. In my previous work with schools in Kenya, I learnt that its not only the pupils who need motivation, its also about ensuring that the teachers feel motivated and empowered about their abilities to transform learners through their teaching
  4. Donating your old High school text books to the school for use by the students
  5. Volunteering to teach at the school for a term, a month, a week, or helping the students revise for their exams
  6. Visiting the school for a day for mentoring, guidance and counselling for the students.
  7. Offering to provide mentoring to students over  a period of their high school life as a way of capacity building and leadership development
  8. Donating towards building the remaining two classes, offices and laboratories for the school.
  9. Donating desks and chairs for the students and teachers in the school.
  10. Sponsoring best preforming students in the school as an incentive to retain them in school
  11. Lobbying politicians in Kenya, especially those running for key positions in Makueni County as well as Presidential positions, challenging them to show leadership in education reforms in the country.
  12. Sharing this message with other individuals and institutions that may be interested in supporting Ukia High School in whatever ways they like (it may even be buying the school chalk, textbooks, exercise books for the students etc).

This list can be endless, so just go ahead and do what you feel would help the students of Ukia High school, and others going through similar situations in their learning! This generation needs you!

7 comments:

  1. Hey Grace, this is very encouraging, glad you shared, I have old text books that I can donate, what is the procedure, and please share your bro's contacts so we can send him encorgaing messgaes

    Lumosi

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  2. Hi Lumosi, Sure that's very encouraging. I will email you his contacts. I would prefer all the commitments go directly to the school. Many thanks. You can also pass the word to the Parkie YPs as an outreach project they could engage in.

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  3. Today, my brother posted this on my Facebook wall, and it made me shed tears:
    "HEY MY little. this is a story about your gift. am using an old 1970 staff quarter as an office with a borrowed chair and a rented table. no shelf, no cabinets and no trays. all my documents are being safe in empty cartons scatter
    d over the old cracked floor. infact coin ikiingia kwa miatuka huwezi ipata..
    i have only one worker, a cook. am the head , the secretary, the accounts officer and the eldest fellow. i have 84 students from form 1 to 3.
    but amidst this humble backgroud am so grateful that your gift is making me to work well. i have within one week computerised all the important school data. if the charge is out , am sending a teacher to the prim school to borrow 'fire' as they say.
    am doing a lot because someone thought well of me. may God bless you .
    today i was talking to the students about vision. i want them to see life beyond the closet of poverty they are cocconed in. am sure with Gods enablement some of these young people wil come to oxford and other places and say ; teacher told me i can'
    am proud to be a teacher and am proud that i had students like you who listened to me and made it .good time sis"

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  4. First time on this blog and i love it already. This story though is just it. Teacher will be getting all the books I have....i will throw in a desk too....can i get the contacts of this great Kenyan.

    Inspired Kenyan

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  5. Grace, this is marvellous of my mentor who in two years encounter with transformed my life.Being my employer in kyuasini,I enjoyed his lovely chat that reminded me of my future and I admit that he really has the love for young children.Am whom I am and am going where am going because of him.Grace, what astonishes me most is the fact that Mr Mwaura is still a sunday school teacher!..... The most humble duty which even young people shun from........... I will do all i can to make him learn that he planted a viable seed in my life.

    Inspired university student
    patrick muthini

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  6. Absolutely inspiring. I remember talking with your bro when I met him a couple of years back and could see the glow in his eyes when talking about his role in transforming the lives of the young ones. And he declares his pride in being a teacher!!!! Amazing... Will definitely throw in something

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  7. Hopefully, the education system in Kenya will improve. These suggestions are indeed worth to keep. Thank you very much for this heartwarming and inspiring post.

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