Reflections from Samuel Muhunya

Experiences during exchange visit to Scotland May 29th to 11th June 2015

As a community leader and head of a local NGO my mind was trained aspects of activities in school and at community level that contribute to better understanding of responsible global citizenship; sustainable community development; food and nutrition; empowering education and natural resources management.

Besides the activities in which all Kenyan delegates participated together as a group, I teamed up with Mr. Amos Gachuki the head teacher Michinda Primary school and stayed at Dounby Community School, visited Shapinsay community school, met teacher and students of Eday community school and had dinner with teacher Theo of Kirkwall Grammar School all in Orkney.

In the table below I capture some of my experiences in Scotland; lessons I learned from these experiences and my recommendation for improving the Kenyan situation.

The following outline the Activity / Experience, the Lessons Learned and Recommendations for Improving the Kenyan Situation

Participation in morning assembly in Dounby school

-The head teacher made a presentation on importance of values: honesty and truthfulness –The session was interactive allowing students to ask questions

-the forum was used to recognize participation and contribution of some students

-The assemble was “non-military like” where head teacher give orders and decrees

-Students were allowed to air their opinions which builds their confidence

-Recognizing contributions of students encourages them to be selfless and feel valuable

head teachers of Kenyan schools and teachers should drop the military approach towards students and embrace more dialogue with them

-Assemblies are good forums for training students on values and general topics towards building responsible citizens

In nursery class students are exposed to a lot of play and socializing indoor and outdoor; introduced to basic practical skills

-Parents are allowed to volunteer and participate in teaching the young ones which strengthens the partnership between teachers and parents

-Older students in higher classes are also encouraged to guide and play with the young ones which builds responsibility in the older students

in the Kenyan system parents are treated like “Outsiders” to the school system. Policy makers and school heads to recognize parents as important stakeholders and encourage them to volunteer their services towards improving learning and building a responsible school community

In Primary one class we found assistant teachers whose responsibility is to give individual teaching to students found to be “weak” in some topics. In the same class students supervised in brushing/cleaning their teeth

-Personalized attention and teaching helps students identify their own weaknesses and how to overcome them.

-The assistant teachers help the students to get to the same level with others

-Early introduction and training in dental hygiene is very important

-Kenyan teachers are strained by the large classes and don’t have assistants but this should not be excuse for not giving weak students personal attention

-While it is true that many students and schools have inadequate facilities, it is not enough excuse for not introducing the young ones to basic dental hygiene that can be based on locally available tree twigs used by adults

Participation with students in science excursion

-This type of experience helps students appreciate science and nature

-It guides them in self discovery and promotes teamwork

-Outdoor learning is hardly practiced in Kenya except where classrooms are inadequate.

-Students should be guided in learning and appreciating their rich biodiversity which could lead to them liking science

Participation with students in excursion to small scale farm. In Shapinsay we learned that a small scale farmer comes to school as trainer in gardening

-The farmer was willing to share skills and use his farm as a “classroom”

-Excursion enhances their knowledge and influences positively their attitude towards agriculture, science and food

-Students get   the “feel” of gardening which understand how much these “unsung” heroes go through to feed all of us

-We should involve our neighbouring small scale farmers in school gardens to enable students to gain more practical skills

-visiting farms outside school should be encouraged to expose students to more biodiversity and enhance their knowledge on food and environment

-Hosting students and other visitors will give our small scale farmers more visibility and confidence

Composite teaching

In the Shapinsay school with population of 25 students in different classes, composite teaching is practiced in which students of different levels are taught in one classroom by same teacher(s). In P3 & P4 class focus was mainly on individual and group tasks that also includes practical skills learning in cookery, introduction to carpentry, knitting etc. The life skills are important for all students irrespective of the careers they pursue in the future

One pillar for 8-4-4 curriculum in Kenya education system was introduction of life skill courses at all level. Unfortunately this noble idea has been allowed to erode and today very little of that happens.

Education policy makers and curriculum developers should revisit this issue and provide structures for implementing the same in simple, low cost approach. School gardening is part of this noble intervention.

Sharing of facilities between school and community

In the Island of Shapinsay, sporting and meeting facilities are used by the school and during community events. This increases utility value of the facilities, enhances understanding and cooperation between school and community and reduces duplication and waste

In Kenya the opposite is true; there is little sharing of facilities between schools and communities. Schools should aim at metaphorically”breaking the wall” between them and communities. Community sporting clubs should be encouraged to use school facilities for a fee, schools are also good venues for various private and community events (during holidays or weekend) that can also generate much needed income for the schools.

Participation with students in visiting the castle

The castle though privately owned identifies with inhabitants of the island allows them access to their well protected forest and history. Students have opportunity to learn history, science, environmental conservation and gardening from here where the social-corporate responsibility is clearly demonstrated

In many Kenyan communities we have local and/or international investors of different scales. There is need for the investors and community leadership to partner in preserving and conserving community environment and history and integrating schools in these initiatives for posterity. The youth are our future!!!

Participation with students in planting flowers at home for elderly persons

In coming to the home students learn to appreciate and respect older people especially those going through sickness. The act is a form of psycho-social therapy for the elderly

In African societies children interact with their grand and great grand children easily but with schooling and migration to urban areas this is practiced less. It is important for parents to create opportunity for their children to interact with old people and for schools to invite old persons to share their history and other knowledge with students in schools.

Schools should also introduce students to participate benevolent actions aimed at improving life for less fortunate persons

Training on road safety, orderliness and timeliness. In all schools we visited and interacted with time keeping, orderliness road safety were taught emphasized.

-Students learn to keep time from a very early age and that becomes part of them

-People ones learn and adapt values of orderliness including NOT jumping queues when young

-Youth learn to be responsible road users when young

-All Kenyan schools and communities have a responsibility to inculcate positive values in the young ones especially in school and at home

-Adults should demonstrate responsibility that includes time keeping, orderliness and respect for other road users for the youth to emulate

Comparing Kenya and Crofting connection soils through chemical analysis. 4 soil samples from the Molo River basin in Kenya were analyzed and compared to soil in Crofting communities

-Small scale farmers (crofters) regularly have their soils analyzed

-Simple, low cost Ph meters are available in most farmers stores in Scotland

-Soils and seeds are the foundation for food and nutrition security that should be protected aggressively

In Kenya most small scale farmers who feed us have limited information on condition of their soils and receive limited institutional support for sampling and analyzing their soils

-Soil fertility in the main food producing counties has greatly declined leading to reduce yields and less food availability

-Government and civil society to establish programs for building the capacity of small scale farmers in monitor soil fertility

-School gardens that are used as open “classrooms” for students and farmers should to established in as many schools as possible

Curriculum for excellence in Scotland aims at building (a) successful learner (b) confident individual (c) responsible citizen (d) effective contributor

These are strong pillars for sustainable development based everybody’s contribution and responsibility

Kenyan curriculum is not as candid as the Scottish one but still the teachers and community leaders can be more creative and define what they wish to achieve (objectives) in their schools based on local needs, challenges and aspirations

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