Archive for August 2012

Early Childhood Education – Nairobi   6 comments

The streets leading to Shalom High Places Pre-School (a private school) are unpaved and lined with poorly constructed buildings in the Eastlands section of Nairobi, Kenya. The pre-school is housed on the ground floor of a three-story apartment building. It has no lights and consists of three small classrooms: a baby class (2-3 year olds), nursery (4 year olds) and pre-unit (5-6 year olds).

Every morning 70 students attend classes where they are taught, according to teacher Nancy Vivian Obanda, 30, the national curriculum (the same syllabus as  government schools). However, she’s quick to add that “as a private early childhood development school our quality of education is superior to the government schools.” Consequently, she explains, “we need to expand the school because of parental demand. Many parents don’t believe the government can provide the same level of attention we give their children.”

The students at Shalom High Places are like children most anywhere: enthusiastic, eager to learn and playful. Their high pitched and melodic voices are incorporated into the learning experience as they regularly cheer one another after answering a question: “Well done, well done, try again another day, keep up a very good girl (boy).” As this is sung the child being cheered will place her/his hands on their hips and rock both head and hips to the chorus. “It helps make learning fun for them. They’re very young so you can’t teach them like the bigger kids. Singing helps them to stay interested in the syllabus,” said Obanda.

Shalom High Places is an informal school that offers tremendous potential in the way of education, giving the children a solid foundation to move on to secondary school.

In Kenya, school enrollment levels drop dramatically after the primary level (eighth grade). Since 2003 primary level education has been free and compulsory in Kenya (at government schools). This has greatly increased school enrollment and raised the literacy rate with it. Though stricken with poverty and hardships the people of Kenya are generally literate. Sadly many families can’t afford secondary school because tuitions must be paid. At Shalom High Places parents pay 450 shillings (approximately $5.40 US) per month for tuition.

Although primary school education is compulsory there are few public schools in Nairobi’s overflowing slums. Consequently thousands of children are squeezed out of the formal education system. Non-formal schools have sprung up to fill the gap. Unfortunately many of these are underfunded and understaffed. At Shalom High Places their concerns center around the need for computers, books and play materials, according to teacher Obanda.

Just before nap-time the nursery class is given small amounts of play dough to occupy themselves as their teacher, Cecilia Muringi, test students three at a time. “I can’t test the entire class at once because they would just play with and tear or stain the paperwork.” The youngsters are quick to take advantage of their teacher’s preoccupation with testing. However she’s up to the multitasking challenge, issuing warnings and an occasional slap on the wrist. She has a firm yet playful manner with the students.

Despite the occasional problems that arise during the school day the atmosphere at the pre-school is supportive, energetic and stimulating. The children eagerly participate and crave the opportunity to step to the front of the class to be cheered by their classmates: “Well done, well done…”

Posted August 12, 2012 by documentedAwareness in Education, Features

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