This is a reflection of the time spent in Africa. My heart goes out to all the teachers who are preparing for the end of another difficult year.
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 felt the moment we arrived in Kenya: respected and welcomed.
Jane , who picked us up from the airport spent a lot of time with us and welcomed us into her home. Jane and her husband, Ken, founded Beacon of Hope (BOH) in 2000, and since then, there has been a lot of growth; meetings John and I were in often focused on how to expand BOH in order to meet the needs of families within the community. For example, BOH started when mothers who were coming into the clinic for treatment for HIV needed had difficulty staying with their children, who were roaming around at the clinic. It prevented them from receiving treatment. The response at BOH? Build a daycare for children to play in!
The thinking evolved like this:
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.
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. Visiting the slums, where another BOH center is located, was a humbling experience. John and I knew we would need to prepare for an emotional day.
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 learn. One of the programs that BOH 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 adored was seeing how teachers encouraged children. When they would see that a child was not doing well academically, they asked 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 (note, systems) could learn from this instead of, for example, requiring teachers to teach math in so many different ways that students begin to think they must be dumb when they don’t get it the first way the first time