Globally-minded people from Prince Edward Island partnering with Kenyan farmers and families
Safe Inclusive Schools Project
Canadians and Kenyans are working together to support teaching and learning in schools that are twinned between the two countries through Farmers Helping Farmers. It’s called the Safe Inclusive Schools Project.
Kenyan educators share strategies for safe and inclusive schools
by Liz Townsend, on behalf of the Safe Inclusive Schools project
In March 2019, an FHF team of Carolyn Francis, Carolyn Thorne and Liz Townsend returned to Kenya to continue the Safe and Inclusive Schools project begun in 2017. In a follow-up evaluation of the first visit, Kenyan educators and community members had expressed strong support for the project to continue, and had asked for more information on positive discipline, learning strategies, and ways to increase inclusion and accessibility.
In response, the FHF team facilitated two-day workshops in two counties. The workshops drew a tremendous turnout, with 31 participants in Mukurwe-ini, and then 47 participants in Meru a week later. Every one of FHF’s 26 currently or previously twinned schools sent at least one participant, and over half of these participants had participated in the 2017 workshops. At the Meru workshop, the team also reconnected with Purity Ciomati and Virginiah Kwera, two early childhood teachers who had audited Holland College’s Early Childhood Learning Program during fall 2018 with support from Farmers Helping Farmers.
For two days, workshop participants shared strategies for positive discipline, learning approaches and inclusion and accessibility. As well, the 2019 workshops included a review of a draft Guidebook, Positive Learning for All, developed for educators by the SIS team. At the Meru workshop, valuable assistance was provided by the UPEI pre-service teachers, who were completing a six-week teaching practicum in schools twinned through FHF.
Evaluation shared with the facilitators on the two days was overwhelmingly positive, such as -“I wish all teachers were given the same workshop”, and “I will use a variety of instructional strategies to cater for all learners”. The Mukurwe-ini workshop also attracted interest from the District Education Officer, Mr. Joseph Wainin, who offered financial support to offer the workshop to more teachers. In Meru District, the Minister of Education stopped by to offer words of support.
Moving forward, the SIS team will update the draft Guidebook, given positive feedback such as “The Guide was an eye-opener.” Research on the project will continue. As the next step, Kenyan Research Assistants will carry out follow-up interviews with workshop participants in each of the two areas to gain their views in greater depth and help shape further work.
The SIS Team also saw the benefits firsthand of our donors’ generosity, as they joined with the UPEI Pre-Service Bachelor of Education students to hand out 211 Days for Girls kits and present soccer balls and mosquito bed nets purchased with FHF donations.
As well, funds donated to Make a School Disability-Friendly supported the SIS Team to present learning resources for Special Needs pupils at Mweru Primary (Mukurwe-ini) and Mitoone Primary (Meru) schools.
The Safe Inclusive Schools project grew out of the work Farmers Helping Farmers has done in partnership with schools in Kenya. The Canadian group has helped in the past to improve schools, with new cookhouses, screen house gardens, water tanks and other infrastructure.
Some generous contributors to the Holiday Campaign in 2017 and 2018 have supported the work of this project through their $200 donations to help make a school disability-friendly. Thank you!
The Safe Inclusive Schools project will continue to need financial support both this year and in the future, and all sizes of donations are most welcome.
The twinning relationships started in 2003 and have now expanded to include 18 schools in Kenya. Primarily, the twinned schools exchange letters. But it has grown into a mutual sharing of culture and friendship.
The Safe Inclusive Schools Project is exciting with its focus on making Kenyan schools more positive learning spaces.
Kenyans supported the development of this project and the Safe Inclusive Schools Projects was launched.
The goal is to work with teachers and administrators to create positive learning environments for all, with inclusive classrooms for students with special needs, especially learning, mental health and behavioural issues.
Donations to the SIS project will support the use of Kenyan specialized learning materials and construction supplies and labour to demonstrate accessibility options in two twinned schools.
"Some changes are simple, such as ramps to toilets so that children with physical challenges can use the latrines," said Liz Townsend, of Farmers Helping Farmers, part of the SIS team.
"Also basic learning resources for reading and math that we take for granted in Canada."
Changing discipline methods
While corporal punishment was banned in Kenya in 2011, change takes time.
With experience in changing discipline methods in Canadian schools, Farmers Helping Farmers was interested in supporting Kenyan teachers in schools that are twinned with Canadian students through their group.
Phase One of the Safe Inclusive Schools Project took place in Kenya from February 27 to March 9, 2017, led by Carolyn Francis, Liz Townsend, and Wendy MacDonald, members of the FHF Board of Directors.
Workshops were held in Mukurwe-ini and Meru areas with educators and pupils to identify the issues and concerns around corporal punishment and special needs pupils.
An Action Team developed ideas into a follow up action plan for implementation in Kenyan schools with support from Farmers Helping Farmers.
All participants indicated that the SIS project is extremely important and should continue.
The SIS team followed up in the fall of 2017 with questionnaires to assess the impact of the project to date. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with participants enthusiastic to have the work continue.
The third phase of the Safe Inclusive Schools will take place in March 2019, as Liz Townsend, Carolyn Francis and Carolyn Thorne continue the work started two years ago.
They will hold one day sessions on discipline and management strategies, with another day on inclusion. There will be two test schools: Mitoone in Meru and Mweru in Mukurwe-ini.
"We believe that the awareness generated and the knowledge shared through the SIS project to date will have a significant impact for pupils in Kenya," says Francis.