Kenya Connect is expanding our students’ horizons in Wamunyu! The Expanding Horizons club was started as a pilot program in 2020 at Miondoni Secondary School with 28 students. A literacy empowerment program for secondary school students, we enrich students with life skills, communication, leadership, personal etiquette and hygiene, integrity, conflict resolution, empathy, and critical and creative thinking. Strengths like belonging, curiosity, kindness, friendship, courage, confidence, and hope are instilled in them. Menstrual health and hygiene information, mentorship, career guidance, and leadership skills are provided to enable them to thrive in their future personal and professional lives. STEM activities like coding and how to ensure internet safety is part of the curriculum too! Knowledge is power and we want to ensure our students are safe online and can make sound decisions when using the internet.
When we first started this program, the students were timid. They could not talk in front of others. During our second session, we held a group activity with students divided into groups of five. Later, every group had to do their presentations and every member was supposed to speak. Unfortunately, we had only had one group who did the presentation. Fast forward: students who have undergone the program for two years are much more comfortable and confident in their public speaking skills.
Group activities strengthen team building and communication among the learners. It’s encouraging as a mentor, to see every student being able to present their work confidently and courageously to the rest of the members without fearTheir academic performance has also improved.
Read aloud stories are done in every session. Can you guess how many books we have read in a period of two year and the impact reading has created? The Missing Suit, I Just Want to Say Goodnight, Sulwe, Brave, and The Ostrich Learns to Read, are some of the books we read. This has improved their listening skills as they recognize the difference between spoken language and printed text, hence improving their vocabulary, pronunciation of words, and writing skills. The students have been empowered and now they are reading aloud to their friends! This melts my heart to see how fluent they have become.
The students are always eager for the next read-aloud. In many of our sessions, students can’t hide their joy. They laugh together at the amazing stories shared. The power of storytelling has been nurtured and even some students have developed a passion in doing read alouds. This has helped them prepare for literature papers. Madam Edna (teacher of English) once commented,”The read-aloud sessions have been of great help to my students. They are exposed to analyze the set books. My work has been easier. They know the plot, the characters, and the message being passed to the readers”.
Environmental conservation has been part of the learning through the Lifelines project in partnership with Creative Connections. This program has enabled our students to share Kenyan environmental issues with students in America. During World Environmental Day, every member planted a Moringa tree. “Throughout the session, I have learned that the environment is key in everything and everyone in the world depends on it. Therefore, we should take care of it to make our lives better”, Faithful Festus commented during a visit to Muthoki Country Lodge and seeing the forest there.This has greatly nurtured the love for environment and responsibility.
During the school breaks, we hold school enrichment camps for the students. Learning, reading, creating, and STEM activities continue happening. Guest speakers are invited to give motivational talks to the students. This has mentored our students and they are now in a better position to make sound decisions and to respect each other. They can now solve conflicts at home, school and in the community.The school principal commented, “This is the most disciplined class in the whole school”. Through STEM activities, future innovators are being nurtured with problem-solving skills, more technology use, and encouraged to explore careers in the technology field.
Expanding Horizons club engages and embraces the aspect of community service activities to show compassion, empathy, and spreading kindness to others. Students get to provide services to those in need, and increase their social awareness and responsibility. A visit to Wamunyu Special School is one of the special moments for the students. They learned and played games together, helped in cleaning, and shared snacks. David commented, “I learned that it is good to share with the needy and I liked how they welcomed us. We rarely receive that kind of welcome”
School trips answer the requirements of all five senses as they experience things at first-hand. Students have been going for field trips which have given them great exposure, and expanded their worldview and career exposure.
It has been heartening to share a two-year journey with these students. They have gained strong voices to express themselves and are they continue to strive for the best in the future.
Blog by Mentor Monicah Kyalo