Students sat in pairs. The 8th grade class responded with every prompt the teacher gave. While the teacher taught about metrics and conversion, students willingly participated and listened.
One student raised his hand and offered an alternative way to complete metric conversions. He wrote his example on the board, explaining his reasoning. He quickly went through a part of the problem that involved division of large numbers. The teacher asked him to explain and not to assume that the students would know how to do that, which he obliged to do. When he was finished, the teacher and students applauded him.
Teacher: “Is this okay?” This questioning allows students the opportunity to say that it is not okay, that what is happening does not make sense. However, it also creates an environment where there is respect for the children; they drive the teaching as they feel respected by the teacher.
This is exactly how John and I have felt the moment we walked into Kenya: respected and welcomed.
Jane , who picked us up from the airport, spent a lot of time near us, but not necessarily with us. Ken and his wife Jane are the founders of Beacon of Hope (BOH), and since it was founded in 2000, there seems to be constant talk about how to expand BOH in order to meet the needs of families within the community. Mothers who were coming into the clinic for treatment for HIV needed to stay with their children, who were roaming around. It prevented them from receiving treatment. What does the staff at BOH do? Build a daycare for children to play in, of course!
The thinking evolved as staff saw needs met:
Okay, now the children are old enough to go off to school, but why do we have to send them off? No, this is no good. Why not have a school of our own instead? Thus, the primary school. Then when those children grew up, another school was built - a secondary school.
In fact, the 8th grade class that is graduating this year are the first class to attend the primary school. It will be a special celebration.
The social workers are definitely the heart of Beacon of Hope. The social workers find the needy in the community and intervene. Based on the needs of those families, programs are built.
The garden was one of my favorite places to see. This enriching program is vital in feeding the community. Also, families who are very poor but are sick learn to cultivate a garden with the land that they do have. Even plastic jugs and compost bags are used as a way to start growing crops.
The schools are amazing. John really enjoyed watching the students engage in activities and learning. Plus, one of the programs that Beacon offers is education. They sponsor children who do not have enough money within their family, and make up about 30% of the population. The children who come from this population are usually very poor, have one parent, or have an illness in the family. Parents and sometimes their children have HIV. There is so much encouragement for families that come to Beacon of Hope. Children feel a part of something bigger, like a community.
One aspect of the educational system that I adore is when teachers see that a child is not doing well academically, they ask themselves, “What skill can we give this child?”, or “What do they do well?” Often, a child who is poor academically excels in another area, like athletics, arts, fashion, agriculture, electricians, or mechanics. In fact, some of the art we have seen here is very good. Perhaps American school systems could learn from this instead of teaching math in so many different ways that students begin to think they must be dumb.
Tomorrow, John and I will be visiting the slums, where another BOH center is located. That being said, we need to prepare for an emotional day. Still, there are so many great moments about this trip, Besides, watching monkeys walk around the apartment as squirrels would in Wisconsin may never get old.