Education is a struggle in the underprivileged Kiberan slum. There are a few free, yet overcrowded, government schools in Kibera. All other schools are community schools that charge a fee each term. Even at government schools, many children end up dropping out of primary school because they can’t afford uniforms, school supplies, need to supplement parent income, or sometimes are too hungry to go to school. This article will explore many different perspectives on education; the perspective of a volunteer teacher in Kibera and the Harvard educated Miss Porter’s Academic Dean, Timothy Quinn.
In Kibera, schools are places where students are given the ability to learn, but these schools still need a better environment. Naomi Jung, a volunteer teacher in Kibera describes her first experience in a Kiberan school saying that the entrance of the school looked like a shack, it was an unlabeled and narrow alleyway. The school property was no more than 1500 square feet. There was a tiny patch of grass that was serving as a play area for students. There were five classrooms for grades 4 through 8 and one staff room. Each classroom had 40-50 students who sat at crumbling pews. Each class had one textbook that the teacher used for lessons. To assign homework and classwork the teacher would write out every problem on the board for students to copy down however they could.
When students are attending schools in these conditions how do they continue being motivated to learn? Tim Quinn says that for young children, the joy of learning is motivation to continue learning later in life. It’s all about new experiences for little kids. As one gets older, the sense of accomplishment and problem solving is a motivating factor. For students in Kibera, motivation comes from a different place. Naomi Jung talks about the immense motivation she saw from the students. Students in Kibera see education as their way out of poverty. The students that excel are the ones that get sponsorships from donors for extra funds for school and students know that they must do well on the national exam in grade eight in order to attend a good high school. Naomi Jung says, “I was struck by how despite being so young, these children are so motivated and appreciative of their opportunity to go to school.” She says that many students in the education systems in Kibera have big aspirations to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and more. These students are striving for good lives, and education is their pathway to get there.
How are schools best organized, how should a curriculum be organized, what are the benefits of lesson plans? According to Naomi Jung, the schools in Kibera were hectic, the curriculum was unstructured and disorganized. There was little planning for school lessons, teachers would write lessons out of books minutes before classes started; these lessons were based off of what the students learned the day before. Tim Quinn provides input for why curriculum and lesson planning is important, and also why caring for teachers is crucial to the quality of a students education. Teachers are curators of the experience for students. School curriculums should be organized around solving problems in the world instead of memorizing facts.
While many students take their access to education for granted, and are reluctant to go to school, in Kibera this is not the case. Children take advantage of every opportunity they have to learn. Naomi Jung says that every child has an amazing work ethic and amount of determination. Despite having little, the kids are filled with hope and appreciation for everything they do have. There is hope that more kids will begin to appreciate their education, and that all children will one day be able to sit in a classroom and understand the power of the education they are receiving.
The question we face is, how can we ensure those without privilege have equal access to quality education and opportunity? We, as a society, need to want to change and provide opportunities for the underprivileged members of our world. We need to think about education from a long term perspective. According to Tim Quinn, “education should be the vehicle for solving the problems that face us,” the next 100 years of education should cultivate learning experiences everywhere. We need to dismantle the distinction between school and life so that we are constantly learning.
Macheo is a community outreach program that began its work in 2014, with the goal of providing education opportunities to less privileged students. This program reached out to high school students living in less fortunate areas, such as the Kibera slums, to give them more educational opportunities. The program recruits a number of students per school to join the program and these students are offered mentorships, tutoring, and educational excursions. The goal of the program is to let the boys and girls from Kibera know that there is a life outside of Kibera. Most children in the program have spent the entirety of their lives living in the slums. They don’t know anything outside of crime, lack of amenities, and the poverty that they were raised and have lived in. Macheo offers support and guidance, as well as educational opportunities, to these students in Kibera.
While on the surface, Kibera is seen as a place of poverty, there is another perspective of this region which is one filled with hope and optimism. While there are many challenges to facing the education issues in Kibera, there are ways to begin to help. Organizations such as Global Giving are raising money for education for 65 selected students in Kibera. The School of Hope Foundation raises money to send students from Kibera to school so that they can learn and grow as people. There are tons of organizations that collect donations and support to provide education for kids in Kibera, there are so many ways to help make a difference for students in this underprivileged area.