Kenya Connect is striving to be #TheVillageThatReads! We are doing this through a multipronged approach that connects students, teachers, and parents to the wonder, knowledge, and joy of books! We know that out-of-class reading leads to fluency and comprehension while opening new worlds and ideas to students and their families. Our Library has over 30,000 books thanks to Books for Africa and many generous donors! We continue to grow our collection with high quality stories and information books in English and Kiswahili. In 2022, we opened the Library Learning Center (LLC) with the first community Library for over 100 km. Students, teachers, parents and community members are borrowing books from our diverse collection.
Library Card and School Book Day Program
In 2018, Kenya Connect launched the first ever Library Card program in Wamunyu with parents enrolling their children to receive a library card for one dollar. These student specific cards connected to an “I Love Reading” lanyard, allow students to borrow books from the Kenya Connect Library of over 10,000 books in English and Kiswahili. Currently over 6,000 cards have been issued at 30 of our partner schools with plans to expand the program to all 62 partner schools. Our “Magic School Bus” and Reading Rover Truck are mobile libraries rolling into school yards filled with boxes of books! Our library has books that are written and published in Kenya as well as books from the U.S. and UK. In 2021, Kenya Connect purchased a third vehicle to expand our reach. Interested in donating a book? Visit our wishlist or send a cash donation.
Read Aloud stories are a hallmark of our literacy efforts! Each Saturday, children are invited to the Library Learning Center for a story and activity! Creating bookmarks, dramatizing stories, using a Kio Kit tablet and playing vocabulary games are all activities that are included at the story time!
The Reading Challenge
Remember Summer Library Programs? Kenya Connect created a Reading Challenge for students at our primary schools. The goal is to read 25 books in three months and complete the colorful themed Reading Challenge Guides. We launched the program in June 2019 with 500 students at six partner schools. In October we “crowned” the Reading King and Queen at the annual Running to Read 5K held in October. All Reading Champions received a string bag and some special supplies. Many teachers of the Reading Challenge students observed that their writing and reading had improved as a result of the program. Despite the pandemic, we had 500 students participate in the 2020 challenge and in 2021 we distributed 1,000 guides with help from the Garrison Forest School.
Radio Read Aloud
In the early months of the pandemic, schools were closed in Kenya for nine months. Learners in more prosperous areas were able to learn through on-line platforms and television shows. However, most learners in Wamunyu live in homesteads without electricity or internet. Some parents have smart phones, but most have limited data. As a result, Kenya Connect began a weekly Radio Read Aloud on Mbaitu FM, a local radio station. These Radio Read Aloud shows include a story which is followed by a lesson that is connected to the Kenyan curriculum. Learners are invited to call in during the show to win prizes and parents are encouraged to listen too. The Radio Station informed us that over 400,000 people were listening to the weekly show. One of our goals is to strengthen education through reading. The Radio Read Aloud is part of our strategy to build a culture of reading and to provide enrichment to students while they were at home. Now that students are back in school, we have continued the Radio Read Aloud during school breaks. You can listen to the past shows HERE.
We are hosting “LitClubs” for students at four of our partner Primary Schools. Thanks to partner LitWorld, Kenya Connect is using their creative and interactive curriculum to boost a love of reading. Students meet each week with a LitClub Mentor to read and do activities to strengthen literacy. We are currently holding this program at four schools. We also participated in LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day with teachers doing special “Read Aloud” stories at 20 of our partner schools!
The Kenya Connect LitMoms program brings groups of mothers and grandmothers together around stories. This LitWorld program is designed to empower women to nurture reading, writing and storytelling with their children and grandchildren through helping them become learners themselves. The program also includes women’s empowerment with women learning how to save money and to begin new micro-enterprises. Currently, LitMoms are learning to sew with lessons by a master tailor which is filled with a LitMom Read Aloud and activity. Dorcas, a LitMom said, “I do not like missing the read aloud activity because when our mentor reads a book to the group, I go home and retell the story to my children. I always feel empowered with a story to share with my children after attending the LitMom meeting. My children are always curious to hear the story; after sharing it with them, they feel very happy.”
Teacher Professional Development
Teachers in Wamunyu are at the forefront of our literacy initiatives. Since the opening of the LRC, professional development sessions have been held by visiting teams guiding teachers on how to use beautiful picture books, early chapter books, and information books as supplements in their classrooms. Most teachers, never having books to use in the classrooms, learn about the importance of out-of-class reading and ways to encourage reading at fun interactive workshops. In 2018, Kenya Connect began Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) with teachers teaching each other and discussing ways to incorporate the key concepts of the new Kenyan Competency Based curriculum into their classroom. In 2021, we are piloting “Teach 2030,” a program of UK based Commonwealth Education Trust and a Secondary School STEM Professional Development Program with NGO partner SeaVuria.
Parents in Wamunyu are committed to education and want to see their children succeed. Kenya Connect staff and volunteers have been conducting parent sessions to share the importance of reading and provide tips and ideas of how to nurture reading, even if the parents are illiterate themselves. Thanks to partner LitWorld, we now have two LitMom groups that meet twice a month to discuss literacy and how to support their children’s education. The mamas participate in fun activities that builds confidence while also learning empowerment skills. In 2022, we will be adding a new component to LitMoms that incorporates vital information on Sexual Health/Reproduction and Violence Prevention and Income Generation training and support.
Many homesteads are without electricity and use dirty kerosene in a can to provide light. In 2016, Kenya Connect initiated a rent-to-own solar light program with families paying $1 a month for 8 months. As the lights are distributed, students are also given a log sheet to record how they are using the light…. for reading, studying or another activity. This initiative coupled with being able to borrow books means students can now read at their homestead. To date, we have distributed 8500 solar lights to students in our community.
In 2012, Kenya Connect opened a Learning Resource Center with a computer classroom with 28 computers, a LCD projector/screen, and access to the internet. For most students and teachers in Wamunyu, it was the first time to see or use a computer. In 2022, an EdTech Hub was opened with equipment for coding, robotics, graphic and website design, and business programs.
The Library Learning Center
The Library Learning Center was opened in June 2022 with a Gala celebration. The LLC houses the first community library for over 100km, maker space (with 20 sewing machines, puzzles, games, and art supplies) recording studio, staff offices and a rooftop meeting space. The LLC, filled with colorful murals and resources, is an important resource for our enrichment programs.
Basic Computer Class and Chromebooks in the Classroom
Director of Educational Technology and ICT, Patrick Munguti, has been leading our technology programs and has created and teaches our basic computer class. This class includes the basics – how to turn on the computer, use a mouse and type on the keyboard, word processing, and how to access the internet. In addition, Patrick and the Tech Team are bringing chromebooks and laptops to the classroom to teach computing and coding, new components of the Kenyan curriculum. Instead of learning about computing from looking at a book, students are now using them! Through interactive exercises, students and teachers are brought into the world of technology preparing them with 21st century skills.
Level Up Village
Imagine the thrill of using Computer Assisted Design to create a 3D printer solar light in conjunction with students in the U.S.! Kenya Connect has been partnering with Level Up Village to offer innovative STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) classes by connecting a class of students in Wamunyu with students in the U.S. Since 2015 over 3000 students have participated in classes including Global Inventors, Global Conversations, and Coding Video Games. In September 2019 we launched Global Sound Artists in 40 early primary classrooms and Global Water Crisis, Global Inventor and Global Scientist in 20 upper primary classes.
Technology Teacher Professional Development
Kenya Connect has been the leader in providing technology professional development for teachers in Wamunyu and the Kyaithani Cluster of Kitui. In 2017, primary schools were given a laptop, projector and 40 tablets to use in Level 1 and Level 2 classrooms issued by the Kenyan Government. However, the teachers were given limited training and most of this valuable technology was locked in classrooms since the teachers were scared to use it. As a result, the KC team sprung into action and began conducting multiday workshops for teachers on how to use the technology while also providing technical support if the teachers ran into challenges. In addition, Kenya Connect has provided additional resources including the use of content-rich Rachel Plus Devices. We created Professional Learning Communities (PLC) at six schools with teachers meeting weekly to learn together. In addition, we are offering Secondary School Teacher Professional Development in partnership with NGO SeaVuria and Rotary’s VTT program.
Secondary School is not free in Kenya and some students in Wamunyu are unable to attend Secondary School due to lack of funds. The School Fund is a funding platform for NGO’s like Kenya Connect to help students who are top academic achievers and living in extreme poverty. Over 40 students have been funded through The School Fund. In an effort to further support these students, Kenya Connect provides enrichment programs during school breaks including study sessions, leadership development, geocaching clubs and field trips. In 2021, Kenya Connect TSF student Edith scored 10th Nationwide on the Secondary School KCSE exam. Watch a VIDEO about Edith. We invite you make the gift of an education to a bright and eager secondary student who lack the resources to attend school. Change a life HERE.
In 2016, Kenya Connect was awarded a grant from the U.S. Embassy for a 2 year Leadership Program for Secondary Students. This program, designed to strengthen English and academic skills and provide leadership training, was a unique opportunity for students in our village to meet with other students from around Kenya to empower them to be future leaders in their professions and country. Part of the program also provided U.S. Fulbright Teachers to work in KC partner secondary schools teaching English and assisting with these assessment programs.
The U.S. Embassy awarded a second grant to Kenya Connect to establish Peace Clubs at three of our secondary schools. Twenty one students were selected to be Peace Ambassadors of the three clubs with the task of assisting with conflict resolution and creating peaceful environments at the school.
“Stand-up and shake out your wiggles! It’s time for a brain-break” Since the opening of the Learning Resource Center, Kenya Connect has offered over 20 workshops led by visiting U.S. teachers. These workshops have been designed to offer tools and ideas to teachers on how to use best practices to implement the Kenya Curriculum and develop 21st century learners. Providing ideas, modeling movement, kinesthetic learning, arts integration, and critical thinking and creativity lessons have given over 400 teachers in Wamunyu new ideas on how to energize their classrooms for improved learning. The visiting teams have also focused on literacy demonstrating how to use beautiful picture books, early readers, and information books in the classroom. In January 2018 the Kenyan Ministry of Education introduced a new Competency-Based Curriculum. Kenya Connect has been in the forefront of preparing teachers for this dramatic shift in teaching methodologies.
Professional Learning Communities (PLC)
How best to empower teachers? Kenya Connect piloted a Professional Learning Community in 2018 with 16 teachers from four school clusters. These teachers met on a regular basis with our team to develop strategies to best implement the Kenyan curriculum. Using movement, art, storytelling and manipulatives, the teachers shared ideas on how to best encourage 21st century learning in the classroom. These teachers also joined a “WhatsApp” group on their phones. The “WhatsApp” allows them to share ideas, pictures and videos with one another on what they have tried implementing in their classrooms and how the students responded. In 2021 we hired a full-time PLC Coordinator, a Kenyan teacher, to help expand our network and to offer additional professional development classes. In 2021, our four Empowered Schools began participating in the PLC program and are currently piloting the “Teach 2030” program with the Commonwealth Education Trust.
Kenya Connect has been the leader in providing technology professional development for teachers in Wamunyu and the Kyaithani Cluster of Kitui. In 2017, primary schools were given a laptop, projector and 40 tablets to use in Level 1 and Level 2 classrooms. However, the teachers were given limited training and most of this valuable technology was locked in classrooms since the teachers were scared to use it. As a result, the KC team sprung into action and began conducting multiday workshops for teachers on how to use the technology while also providing technical support if the teachers ran into challenges. In addition, Kenya Connect has provided additional resources including the use of content-rich Rachel Plus Devices
Thanks to a Rotary International Grant, teachers in Wamunyu are partnering with a group of teachers in British Columbia, Canada in a Vocational Teacher Training (VTT) program. A team of 8 from BC traveled to Wamunyu to provide training to Secondary School Teachers on incorporating technology into their classrooms. Using a laptop, Rachel Plus device and projector, the teachers learned how to bring new content materials to their students and to incorporate them into the curriculum. This team of Kenyan teachers will be traveling to Canada in December 2019 to learn more from their colleagues in this dynamic program.
The Empowered School
Over the last several years, partners have asked, “Why isn’t Kenya Connect building a model school? You know education and it could be the jewel of education in Wamunyu.” Our staff and boards believe that in order to strengthen education in our community that we need to do it within the current education system. “Model Schools” often benefit those who can afford to go to them and the techniques and teachings rarely transfer to the public school system. As a result, Kenya Connect launched the Empowered School Program. In 2020 we are piloting the program at Sofia Primary School. In order to be an Empowered School, all teachers must participate in the PLC program and work towards incorporating the Competency Based Curriculum in their classrooms. Kenya Connect staff, volunteers and PLC Coordinator are working closely with the teachers to provide guidance and support. In addition, all students must participate in the Library Program and D.E.A.R time is part of each week. Kenya Connect provided resources to paint the interior of the school with lighter colors and installed cork boards and white boards to assist with instruction and to hang student work. Thanks to an International Foundation grant, we added three new schools in 2020 bringing our total to four. In 2022, we launched two new schools to the Empowered School Program bringing our total to six!
Girl Child Empowerment
Kenya Connect is keenly aware of the challenges that the girl child face in Kenya. Many parents still support their sons for further education over their daughters and girls are directed to become mothers, farmers, and teachers and not always encouraged in all fields. In all Kenya Connect activities, we have ensured that there is equal representation of girls in all leadership programs including ACCESS, Peace Clubs and The School Fund. As we have grown our staff in Wamunyu, we have been intentional in hiring women who serve as role models and inspiration for the girls. Our library is filled with books sharing stories and biographies of strong and accomplished women around the world. Our staff and boards discuss on a regular basis of what more we can do and we are constantly seeking new avenues and interventions to help the girl child in Kenya.
Wings Poa, Kenya Connect’s Reusable Sanitary Pad program, is helping girls stay in school during their menstruation. An issue that had been raised by the Head Teachers, we began seeking a solution to help girls stay in school. One of our Board members worked to develop a prototype, and thanks to grants by World Help and Caring Crowd, we launched the program with the purchase of three sewing machines, PUL fabric, and other supplies and women from the local Kithito Kya Kyeengai women’s group and students at the Wamunyu Special School creating the kits. When the kits are distributed, students and mothers are invited to learn more about menstrual health and hygiene and to learn about the new reusable kits from staff members and volunteers.
We learned through surveying girls at two of our participating schools that 85% of the girls missed 3-4 days of school each month. After using the kits for 3 months, we learned that only 5% of the girls were missing school when they had their periods. We are thrilled with these initial results and have distributed over 900 kits. Kenya Connect also partnered with Afrocloud Technologies to create a digital curriculum that is being piloted with a few primary school students. We will continue to provide updates on this exciting program, but in the meantime, we invite you to CLICK HERE to watch a video to learn more about the Wings Poa kits!
Girl Power Program: Teen Pregnancy and Sexual Violence Prevention and Women Empowerment
Teen pregnancy skyrocketed during the pandemic in rural Kenya. Girls as young as 14 have become pregnant which typically results in the girls not returning to school and the cycle of extreme maternal poverty continuing. School closures, loss of jobs for parents, and the lack of rain has exacerbated the situation. With the lack of food and basic supplies like menstrual products, some girls exchange sex for basic necessities while others are forced against their will. The lack of sex education, measures to hold perpetrators accountable, parents overwhelmed by gathering water and providing food for the family, and a sense of hopelessness are all contributing factors. Boys are at a loss as they witness confusing and violent behaviors that devalue their mothers, aunts, and sisters. They are being sent mixed messages about sex and relationships. Kenya Connect wants to provide teens, girls and boys, in their community an opportunity to create healthy families rather than perpetuate mother and infant poverty.
As a result, Kenya Connect is spearheading an effort to break the cycle of teen pregnancy through a comprehensive approach. Working closely with stakeholders including child protection officers, public health officials, pastors, parents, teachers, police, media representatives and village leaders, a multipronged plan has been developed and deployed. At the heart of the plan is an empowerment program for girls and boys through a weekly afterschool enrichment program which includes accurate sexual reproduction information, confidence building, antibullying, violence prevention, healthy relationships, life and career planning, and mentorship. Simultaneously, a program is being conducted for parents on how to talk to children about sexual health and relationships and providing support for income generation projects. Working with the stakeholders, Kenya Connect is also developing a media campaign on reducing teen pregnancy via the local radio station and through WhatsApp. Girls will be issued locally made Wings Poa Reusable Sanitary Pad kits so they can stay in school. Our goal is to have the village of Wamunyu and our 62 partner public schools as advocates for reducing teen pregnancy and sexual violence while empowering the next generation for a brighter and healthier future. This initiative is being supported by a Circle of Sisterhood grant, funding as the Mothers’ Day Movement recipient, and support from faculty and students at the University of New Hampshire.