Dignitas is proud to be a learning organization!  Whilst we have built a wealth of expertise over the last 11 years, we always have more to learn.  The world, and everything we know about education, teaching and learning, is changing at a rapid pace and if we want to continue to represent the hope of quality education for children typically left behind, we have to keep pace.

One of the advantages of being a relatively small organization is that we can not only be a learning organization, but we can be nimble, flexible and adapt as we reflect on what we are learning.

Dignitas has consistently chosen to be intentional about learning.  In 2018, we designed our programming to learn more about our potential impact in rural communities, working with public and private schools in Mweiga and Nyandarua.  Building on this, in 2019 we sought to learn more about working with public schools (government owned and funded) through our partnership with Africa Educational Trust and Global School Leaders, where we partnered with an entire Sub-County (Laikipia North), and again with Early Childhood Development Centres, through our partnership with Kidogo covering six communities in Nairobi.

What did we learn?

The Professional Development needs for Teachers and School Leaders are surprisingly similar across the education system. This is not actually what we expected to find.  Our program has largely been designed to address the needs of School Leaders and Teachers in community schools, where approximately 29% of practicing teachers have no relevant qualifications, compared to the public schooling system which requires teachers to have a relevant qualification before they are hired.  However, when we compared two cohorts of School Leaders who completed the same Dignitas program in 2019, we saw no correlation between their level of professional qualification, and their gains during Dignitas’ training and coaching.  Gains in School Leaders competencies were consistent across both groups.  Further, with the roll-out of the government’s new Competency Based Curriculum, the teaching competencies, learner engagement strategies, and pedagogy needed to deliver across the system, need to be built from the ground up – from PP1 – so a focus on Early Years education is crucial.

There are significant gaps in pre-service teacher training.  This is linked to the first learning.  Unfortunately, pre-service teacher training is not currently designed with any practice in mind.  Teachers learn theory from textbooks, but their first day in the classroom is their first day on the job, with little to no formal support in their early days of classroom practice.  It is worth noting that the Ministry of Education has stated a desire to change this, but there is pending the important process of designing a practicum that offers new teachers a chance to develop excellent classroom practice with the support, coaching and guidance they need.

There is huge potential to impact through the system.  In the cohort of public schools that we worked with in Laikipia North, we worked closely with two local Education Officers.  We saw the potential of the resource already existent within the system.  If that human resource is equipped and empowered to support School Leaders, and School Leaders to support teachers, we foresee a systemic solution to drive long term change for learners in schools across Kenya.  We plan to build on this in 2020, by building the capacity of four Education Officers to support across 50 public primary schools, in partnership with Global School Leaders.

We are excited, not only by what we have learned in 2019, but by how that is shaping our programming for 2020 and beyond, all with the intention of driving maximum impact for children marginalized by poverty, who deserve the best education possible!

Contributor: Deborah Kimathi – Executive Director