Carmel’s Placement in Ndhiwa
Earlier this year, I visited Ndhiwa on a research and volunteering placement with Team Kenya, as part of my MA International Development and Education at Newcastle University.
In a few weeks, I’ll be handing in my dissertation and putting on my Team Kenya vest for the Great North Run. So, as two very different finish lines creep nearer, it feels a good time to reflect on what it’s all for. Here’s what it’s like to be on placement in Ndhiwa…
Karibuni Eco Cottages
Like most Team Kenya volunteers, I stayed at Karibuni. This place is much more than accommodation. It is the heart and soul of the partnership between Team Kenya and the community of Ndhiwa; a workshop for making school uniforms, a demonstration farm for training women in new agricultural techniques, a place to meet and reminisce.
One evening, a young deaf man who had been sponsored by Team Kenya nearly ten years ago came to Karibuni to introduce Val to his new wife, who is also deaf. In a muddle of British and Kenyan sign language, handwritten notes and charades, we talked about how the couple met, the challenges they had faced and the teacher training they recently completed. Almost every day brought visitors like this, each with their own story of how Team Kenya has supported them to achieve their goals. These unprompted, heartfelt testimonies showed the long-lasting impact of Team Kenya’s work and that ‘Karibuni’, which means ‘welcome everyone’ in Swahili, is a place very much true to its name.
78 pupils at Koduogo Primary School showing off their new textbooks before starting group work
Monitoring, evaluation and learning are essential for understanding the impact of any project. Charities like Team Kenya must work especially hard to prove to their funders and supporters that their methods are working and so, after a conversation with Val about how I could use my dissertation to support Team Kenya’s existing projects, we agreed I would conduct an evaluative case study of Raising Achievement.
I interviewed the four Link Teachers and conducted a questionnaire with 169 Class 8 pupils to understand their perceptions of Raising Achievement and whether the programme was on track to achieving its aims of reducing corporal punishment and making learning more child-centred (spoiler alert: it is!)
I wasn’t sure what the teachers would think of me prying into their work but they were surprisingly open, a sign of the trust that Team Kenya has earned with their partner schools. They spoke with enthusiasm about the new methods they had adopted (group work, positive rule making, including all learners…) and were frank about the challenges (displaying students’ work in a dusty classroom, stubborn colleagues, sending warning slips home to illiterate parents…).
Lesson observations were a joy. The children were eager to learn, leaning out of their desks, snapping their fingers and saying “teacher, teacher!” whenever a question was asked. One school, Koduogo, is extremely overcrowded (a result of the well-intentioned Free Primary Education Act 2003) but seeing their brilliant teacher Maxwel leading group work in a class of 78 pupils and practical science classes with 105 pupils showed me that, with the right teachers, any school can make learning more child-centred.
Although attitudes take time to change and can be difficult to measure, the data I collected suggest that support for corporal punishment and reported instances are already declining. Actively seeking teachers’ feedback has strengthened the programme and I am delighted that my research contributed to a successful funding application that means Raising Achievement can now be extended to a further 28 schools!
Football for boys only? No way!
Having grown up playing football, I was excited to see how Brighter Futures uses the sport to tackle the serious issue of gender-based violence (GBV) in Ndhiwa. Team Kenya’s youth mentors – former sponsored students – deliver weekly sessions in school, teaching students how to recognise and challenge GBV and encouraging positive relationships through mixed-gender football training. This successful programme is constantly evolving and my short placement was full of firsts – introducing Brighter Futures to a new partner school, developing a handbook to train more mentors, the girls football team appointing their first female coach, Claire, and playing their first away match. Singing and chanting on the minibus back through Ndhiwa reminded me of my own away matches circa 1998. The girls had lost 2-1 but it didn’t matter one bit. The ‘beautiful game’ is about so much more than winning.
Certificates at the end of the International Women’s Day workshop
International Women’s Day
A week before I left Newcastle, another Team Kenya volunteer, Bethany, told me about a workshop she was organising with Durham Girls Football Club for International Women’s Day. She asked if I’d like to deliver a similar workshop with girls on the Brighter Futures programme and of course I said yes! I led discussions around why we like playing football, girls’ rights and why it’s important to challenge negative gender stereotypes. The girls gave moving testimonies to their female role models – teachers, relatives, Val – and I was flattered that one girl said I was her role model, describing me as ‘beautiful, short and fat’. I’ll take it.
And the rest…
- Planting maize and sorting ground nuts ready to be sold to generate income for the Mentors, and planting a tree at Koduogo’s ever-expanding School Business Farm.
- Seeing the latest women’s table banking group being established at Nyrath School and meeting the first group (at Arina School) to have repaid their loan and become fully self-sufficient.
- Playing games, singing, dancing and laughing (mostly at my dancing) at the Girls Fun Day, seeing how the Support Group helps girls flourish.
- Delivering brand new uniforms, lovingly handmade by Millicent at Karibuni, to girls receiving Extra Support.
- Working with NCEDP colleagues on monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL), IT training and hearing their ambitious plans for the future.
- Visiting my dear friend Vera’s family home and meeting her mother Rose, who has a penchant for bold baby names – Elvis, Michelle Obama, Billy Clinton, Fidel Castro…
- Ending the placement with a boat trip on Lake Victoria with my boyfriend Andy and the Mentors who had become close friends.
It’s incredible to think all this happened in just three short weeks. The placement was a truly unforgettable experience and I am grateful to everyone at Team Kenya, especially Val and Gordon, who trusted me to experience Ndhiwa independently while always providing exceptional knowledge and support.