|The Effectiveness of Teacher Resource Centre Strategy - Education research paper No. 34 (DFID, 1999, 257 p.)|
|CHAPTER FIVE : Teacher Resource Centres in Kenya|
2.1 The Methods of Study of the TRCs and TACs in Kenya
The fieldwork was carried out by two colleagues, David Khatete (DK) from Kenyatta University, Kenya, and Geoff Welford (GW) from the University of Leeds, UK, who know each other well from working together in Leeds and Kenya. The field study was done in 3 phases and involved visits to and interviews with key personnel both in the Ministry of Education, funders and managers, and the Centres. Schools, TRCs, TACs and in-service workshops from Western, Central and Coast Regions were visited and teachers, headteachers, and TAC and TRC personnel observed and interviewed.
The first phase was carried out largely in-country by DK. It involved talking to Ministry officials, inspectors, officials from the various funders involved in the projects in Kenya and their managers as well as TAC and TRC tutors. Documents and other relevant materials were gathered and analysed along with the interview transcripts to describe the setting for Teachers' Centres in Kenya and in preparation for visiting the Centres themselves.
The second phase involved both GW and DK who followed up leads from the first phase, but mainly focused on visiting the Centres and schools, talking with the TAC/TRC-tutors, Headteachers, teachers and others from associated schools or management committees. We also attended in-service workshops when available during this phase.
In the third phase DK visited schools whose staff were at the workshops to observe the participating teachers in action. Their classrooms were observed and the teachers discussed the impact of TAC workshops on their teaching. He also continued to sample TAC/TRCs and interview those associated with the Centres.
Some limitations of the fieldwork, especially those peculiar to the timing of the study, are worthy of note. Phase 1 was carried out at a time when the country was readying itself for elections which were due in late 1997. Political tension was heightened in some parts of the country by localised waves of unrest which not only disrupted aspects of the study, but more importantly interrupted the life of schools, pupils and teachers as well as Centre staff and their programmes.
Phase 2 was carried out in mid-January 1998 and coincided both with the immediate aftermath of the elections and the early part of the school year. At very short notice the start of the school year was delayed by the elections and so some of the fieldwork visits arranged many weeks before did not encounter schools functioning as they would have done in a normal year. However, these conditions applied to all the visits made in phase 2 and any comparisons made retain validity. Schools did not mount special lessons on our behalf. TRCs and TACs did not, in our judgement, alter their programmes for our benefit.
Phase 3 took place between February and June 1998 when schools and the Centres had resumed 'normality'.
In summary, 5 TRCs and 12 associated Secondary schools were visited. We interviewed the TRC-tutors, Headteachers or deputy Headteachers, and groups of teachers who had been exposed to the work of the TRCs.
We visited 12 zonal TACs and two District TACs, and interviewed the TAC-tutors of those Centres. We spoke to staff and teachers in 19 schools associated with the TACs and attended workshops at 2 more. We talked with the Chairpersons of Management Committees of two of the TACs visited.
This represents a small fraction of the TACs particularly and the people associated with these Centres. We visited Centres in three of the eight regions of the country, our programme limited in phases 1 and 2 particularly by the deterioration of the country's infrastructure brought about by devastating floods which made parts of the country inaccessible.
Primary school teachers in session at an In-service workshop
The work of the 3 phases has provided the data on which we make the following observations.
2.2 TRCs in Kenya
There are 25 TRCs in Kenya, funded until 1992 by the ODA under its Secondary English Language Project (see Government of Kenya, 1992 for an evaluation of the SEL Project). The TRC is usually located in a secondary school, with the local Headteacher very supportive of the Centre and its Tutor. Each TRC-tutor is a senior secondary English teacher, usually Head of Languages in a School responsible for their department firstly, carrying a teaching load in their school and running the TRC on around 2 days a week. The resources in TRCs are mainly English books, although most carry a small number of other books - pedagogy, psychology of learning, science teachers' and maths teachers' reference texts. Since 1992 the source of materials has been limited to donations and the few books that TRC tutors have been able to buy out of subscriptions.
One of Kenya's TRCs
i) Outside view of TRC
ii) Two local teachers consulting texts in the In-service room of the TRC.
iii) Bookstore and TRC-tutors office
iv) Bookbox for teachers to carry class set of readers.
With so much of the Ministry of Education budget being spent on salaries, little is left for any other provision. Schools with libraries are the exception and so the TRCs with some books are oases for English teachers. The TRC-tutor is responsible for cataloguing all materials and for implementing an effective measure of stock control. In one TRC visited we were given copies of the list of books overdue and shown letters to Headteachers informing them of the fines incurred to date! All TRC-tutors had excellent systems for locating their stock. They also expected that books damaged or lost would be replaced and were able to prove that their system worked by showing us new books they were cataloguing into their stock.
The TRC-Tutor also co-ordinates a small In-service programme centred on the TRC. It is usually based on the needs of the teachers for support in teaching the examination set-texts in English. The decisions about the focus for In-service work are supposedly made by the TRC Management Committee. In practice they are left to the TRC-tutors whom we interviewed. They mostly anticipated needs as being met by set-text workshops although they also responded to teachers' views expressed while such workshops are in progress. Another kind of teacher and pupil involvement organised through the TRC was a public speaking and debating competition. We noted that between 4 and 6 in-service workshops were planned for each year.
Each TRC serves upwards of 30 Secondary schools, some of which may be more than 100km from the TRC.
The British Council is fostering the development of TRCs forming Teacher Development Groups (TDGs) out of the Secondary English Language Teacher Support Project (SELTS). SELTS had organised skills development courses during the lifetime of the programme, and the TDGs are forming out of these. They run their own courses, the TRC-tutors becoming the TDG co-ordinators. The boast is that these are activity-based courses with finite and concrete useful product. TDGs are reliant on schools to fund teachers' transport to courses while the British Council is presently providing for accommodation and subsistence. Schools are members of the TDG through paying a membership fee levied through the Headteachers Association, usually about 800KSh per school (2 to 5KSh per pupil on the roll). Not all schools in a region are members and there is a feeling, unsubstantiated among those to whom we spoke, that some Heads are hostile to the TDGs.
The TRCs are hoping to integrate more into the community, seeking support from that community and local NGOs. They are hoping also to increase their appeal by opening the Centres to other subjects as they increase the scope of their resources.
Personnel from the British Council interviewed had little evidence to show that course attendance affected teacher promotion in either Secondary or Primary schools. Headteachers asserted that it did in that they took it into account when advancing the case for promotion of a colleague.
2.2.1 Observations of TRCs
The TRC-tutors: The TRC-tutors are part-time. They are all teachers, usually Heads of Languages/English in a school. The TRC may be located in their School or at another place more central to the District. The tutor opens the TRC for 2 days a week, carries out all the administration of the resources, organises and facilitates the workshops and other In-service provision, is secretary to the Management Committee and both runs a department and teaches in their school. They often open the TRC in the evenings outside their designated days to increase the access of colleagues from member schools.
The British Council is preparing a TRC-tutors handbook which was due to be issued in March 1998.
Resources: In Kenya, 25 functional TRCs provide the only source of class readers for KSCE English classes in many Government Secondary schools. Despite the fact that there has been little new resource since the end of the SELP in 1992, users were unanimous in their support for their TRCs. All the TRCs visited provided sets of class readers, copies of set-texts and acted as a conduit for the Kenya Institute of Education (the Curriculum body) where teachers could pick up copies of or view videotapes of set-texts. The TRCs also had facilities to dub audiotapes for teachers to use with KCSE classes. In one case, however, although the TRC was located in the area Education Offices, there was no electricity: failure of the MoE to pay the bill had meant that the supply had been cut off! There was no water supply to this TRC either.
i) Another of Kenya's TRCs (described above) viewed from the outside
ii) The bookstore and teachers' workroom inside this TRC
iii) The secure equiment store for this TRC
Teachers other than teachers of English did not express opinions about TRCs, except to say that they would welcome resources for their own subject, since they have no history of involvement with the TRCs. We encountered no envy of their English language-teaching colleagues from teachers of other subjects.
Heads and Deputies acknowledged that their schools would have to increase the funds they allocated to supporting TRCs if other subjects were to be resourced through TRCs, but all we spoke to said that they would be willing to do so. However, since we encountered more than once the suggestion by the TRC-tutor that some Headteachers were not making their (smaller, existing and expected) contribution to the running of the TRC, such a response might need qualification.
All teachers questioned suggested that the TRCs in their district had had a positive effect on English results at KCSE. Detailed analysis of their schools' KCSE results showed a slight if insignificant upturn in English results since the early 1980s. However, despite the upward trend, this could not with confidence be attributed to the influence of the TRC or its In-service programme.
Secondary schools in Kenya were barely functional at the time of our study visits in phase 2, the start of the school year having been postponed to allow for the General Election and its aftermath. We visited classrooms, but could make no useful judgements about the impact of TRC materials on classrooms or pupils. Classroom walls were bare, visual display materials having been removed while the schools were shut to prevent theft or damage. School admission at the start of the year is conditional upon the payment of fees and Headteachers' offices were besieged by parents making their pacts on fee payments. Teachers and a sizeable minority of pupils were often not in the classes visited during phase 2 of the study.
In-service provision by the TRC: Courses are rated as effective by teacher-users perhaps because they are the only courses on offer to teachers. The impact of the General Election on the INSET programme in one of the TRCs was significant:
We have not had a programme this year (1997/98) because of the election. We were sensitive to the fears of teachers who in this region did not want to gather together. We were frightened that the measures taken in the last 1992 election forbidded (sic) meetings as they were seen as political. This region is in the spotlight and so we suspended our programme. (TRC-tutor)
Because of the scarcity of in-service courses run by the TRCs visited, and the lack of activity in the classrooms, we do not comment on the transfer of pedagogy or content from in-service courses run by TRCs to the classroom and into children's learning.
Enthusiasm and commitment: The TRC-tutors we spoke to were all very committed to what they were doing. They worked much longer hours than those allocated to them to run the TRCs. They acknowledged the support of the Heads of the schools in which they worked, but recognised the need for the full commitment of their Management Committees and the various Ministry officials associated with the schools.
We encountered enthusiasm from the Heads and deputies we met. The Management Committee Chairs also professed their support, but varied in their knowledge of the constraints within which their TRC-tutors worked. Their levels of involvement also varied. In one TRC the Chair was involved on an almost daily basis and was a good friend to the TRC-tutor. In another, he was the Head at a school over 100 km from the TRC and had only a knowledge in principle of what the TRC was involved in locally or the difficulties that the TRC-tutor faced.
"He is a very good man and has visited me here. I don't get the money to run the TRC well and I have had to put it from my pocket myself. I have claimed it, but to this moment I am still poor because of it. He has not time to pass the money to me and it takes a long time to get letters to him" (TRC-tutor)
The Chair's response was one of puzzlement:
She doesn't have to find money from her pocket - it comes from the levy. (Chair, TRC Management Committee)
However, when pushed he described a system of levying money from the schools in the TRC zone that was very different from that described by the Heads in the contributing schools and by the TRC-tutor herself.
Ministry officials, from inspectors through to District Education Officers, influenced the ability of the TRC to maximise its presence. In one case, although the TRC-tutor could not be explicit, it was apparent from her embarrassment when questioned directly that the DEO expected unspecified favours in return for his commitment!
Finance: The Headteachers' Association for each district voted a sum of money, a levy based on the number of pupils in their school, to the TRC. This allowed the TRC-tutor to provide resources for workshops and to offer lunches for participants. Schools provide the money for transport for teachers to travel to workshops or to visit the TRC to use or borrow materials. It is apparent that not all Heads in each district are equally supportive -we spoke only to a few and they were, but since they were either from the TRC-tutor's school or active on the Management Committee, our sample was very biased. TRC-tutors spoke of the apathy of some Heads and the hostility of others. TRC membership was rarely more than 60% of the eligible schools. In some cases this was because the TRC was far from the school; in others because the school had exhausted the resources available at the TRC.
"We don't come any more because we have used all the readers with our classes. If they get some more we will come again." (Head of English, member school)
Distance: The TRCs we visited in two regions were situated in high-density population areas. The distances from schools in the district to the TRC were relatively modest and thus cost participants and their schools little in public transport fares. However, the TRC in another region served some schools that were over 100km from the TRC. Teachers from these schools were infrequent attenders, their schools were not members of the TRC and the Heads were either hostile or apathetic to the TRC.
2.3 TACs in Kenya
2.3.1 SPRED TACs
There are over 1, 300 TACs in Kenya, mostly operated in the Districts of the country, firmly established under the ODA-funded, CfBT-managed SPRED I project and now extended and supported by the DflD-funded SPRED II programme (Modi, 1997). This latter initiative was just beginning (in early 1998) to take effect using its new and different Terms of Reference under the management of the British Council. It is arguably too early to feel the effect of SPRED II on the ways in which TACs will run and certainly too early to evaluate effectiveness.
It is worth noting with respect to the establishment of the SPRED II TAC system that a large majority of those employed as TAC tutors in SPRED I had been 'promoted' to the Inspectorate. This might be read as widening the influence of the TAC philosophy and be considered to be a measure of the impact of the TAC. Conversely, it could be seen as a significant barrier to the speed with which SPRED II can make its own impact on classes in Kenya's Primary schools. That notwithstanding, the donor has invested in the training of personnel who have then become a significant part of the Republic of Kenya's Inspectorate without the Ministry of Education having to finance, develop and run its own inspector-training mechanisms.
Each TAC is staffed by a TAC-tutor who is a Ministry of Education (MoE) employee. TAC-tutors operate out of an office usually in a Primary school and serve a zone with around 10-15 satellite schools. With the exception of a small number of zonal TACs (Lugari, Kakamega and Vihiga, for example) we saw no zonal TACs which were equipped or resourced despite the resources which had been allocated (Modi, 1997). District TACs are resourced with reference and other materials for the around 30 zonal TAC-tutors in the district.
The zonal TAC office was often shared with the zonal inspector. These two individuals usually worked closely together although the TAC-tutor appeared to enjoy a much closer and more relaxed professional relationship with the teachers in his/her schools. This derives from the formative, supportive advisory role of the latter that contrasts with the summative inspectoral role of the inspector. Several times teachers told us how they liked the way in which the TAC-tutor worked and loathed the cold, judgmental air of the inspector.
2.3.2 SIP TACs
The Aga Khan Foundation's Education Service initiated a School Improvement Programme (SIP) in the Municipality of Kisumu in the early 1990s. SIP, jointly funded with DflD, is now (1998) in its third year of operation in TACs in Mombasa Municipality, having discharged its terms of reference in Kisumu. Many of the Mombasa SIP's programme officers had experience as TAC tutors with SPRED I.
The SIP programme serves all 126 Municipal schools and about 20 private schools in Mombasa working in all the 5 districts. Each district is divided into 2 zones, each with a TAC. The TAC tutor, an employee of the Municipality, works with the 12 or so Primary schools in the zone, all within 3-5 kilometre of the TAC. A Programme Officer (PO), employed by the AKES, is also working in each of the 10 zones of Mombasa Municipality, thus each TAC is staffed by a TAC-tutor and a PO. SIP is co-ordinated by its Project Director who runs the Project Office.
Schools were drawn into the programme at the time it was established having previously used the TACS developed under SPRED I. The closer and stronger co-operation of the community was sought at the time of the transition from SPRED I to SIP. It has now become a matter of pride to the Headteacher that the TAC is situated in their school.
The Director meets with all the POs every week to develop the workshop programme through a detailed needs analysis. The POs will then spend time with the TAC-tutor both to communicate the developing workshop programme and to take the tutor's ideas back to the needs analysis meetings. The Project focus is on English, Mathematics and Science, but the POs will advise teachers across all the subjects on the curriculum during their school visits.
The Mombasa Municipality runs the schools, but SIP enjoys an excellent relationship with the Municipality. The Municipal Education Officer is Chair of the School Improvement Project Committee.
SIP provides materials, - books, stationery, a typewriter, a guillotine and a duplicator - for each of its TACs. However, and this is crucial, it will only make its donation conditionally. The community MUST guarantee safe storage of materials, making the TAC secure against theft. It must also make available a room, usually adjacent to the TAC office itself, big enough for the TAC tutor and the Programme Officer to hold frequent workshops.
Once this guarantee is met and the TAC made safe, SIP puts the materials into the TAC and engages a Project Officer (PO) to work in each TAC. The PO takes care of 3-4 project schools in each phase (lasting one year) of the project, working with the TAC-tutor at least 2 days a week and spending the other 3 days in his/her project schools while the TAC-tutor visits the other schools in the zone. By the year 2000, the end of the Project, all schools in the zone will have had this intensive attention from the TAC-tutor and the PO.
SIP also provides an INSET programme in each of its 10 TACs through its POs, usually working closely with their TAC tutor, which is open to all the Primary schools in the zone and not just the current project schools. Each TAC will organise an average of three workshops each school year. SIP uses a thematic approach where each term is allocated to a specific theme or focus so that the programme to date was:
1st Term 1997 - Reading
2nd Term 1997 - Mathematics
3rd Term 1997 - Science Lower Primary
1st Term 1998 - Science Upper Primary
2nd Term 1998 - Oral English - Upper Primary.
The INSET programme is co-ordinated so that both zones in a district have the same programme.
The zonal inspector also works out of the TAC and SIP has persuaded the Municipal Authority to appoint a 4th person (in addition to the TAC-tutor, zonal inspector, PO) to each TAC team, namely a school adviser.
The topics for the In-service workshops run by the TAC-tutors and the POs are wide ranging across each of the 3 subjects and at present the emphasis is on meeting short-term needs arising from the needs analysis. The tutors and POs will plan thoroughly, agree the focus, co-ordinate the running of the workshop, produce materials and mount the course. They follow their teachers back into class and support them in implementing the methods or materials agreed. However, there is no intensive effort on, say, literacy, with materials being designed both to change pedagogy and for consistent and co-ordinated use with the pupils in class.
The SIP TAC Management Committee, headed by a member of the community, usually a successful businessman or woman, is intended to ensure sustainability through this close involvement with the local community. The TAC-tutor acts as secretary, the treasurer is from the community and all the Headteachers from the zonal schools are members of the Committee. They are charged with looking for funds to sustain, manage, maintain and develop the TAC provision. Each member school's PTA committees will vote 500 -1,000KSh to the TAC and raise additional funds through 'Harambees' (fund-raising functions) of one sort or another.
2.3.3 Observations of TACs
We visited both types of TAC - those associated with SPRED I as well as those which were part of the Aga Khan SIP programme. The organisation of the Mombasa SIP TACs have been outlined above. That for the others forms the focus of what follows below.
18.104.22.168 Observations of SPRED TACs
These TACs were characterised by having few, if any, resources, the TAC-tutor operating out of an office in a Primary school, visiting teachers, working with the zonal inspector and facilitating workshops. Their mode and scope of function appears to be changing with the advent of SPRED II, and many TAC-tutors are new to their jobs, their predecessors having been promoted to be inspectors.
There are normally 10-15 schools per TAC, usually within 15km of that TAC. Although the brief of SPRED I was to concentrate on Mathematics, Science and English, all subjects were included in the needs analyses which we discussed with TAC-tutors. It would appear that the focus for advisory and In-service work had become whatever was seen as appropriate by the TAC Management Committee.
i) Planning chart in District TAC office
ii) TAC-tutor's office - a sectioned off part of the School library
TAC-tutors: TAC-tutors are full-time advisers employed by the Ministry of Education. They work closely with the zonal inspector (ZI) and the TAC Management Committee (which includes all the Heads of the primary schools in the zone, the ZI and the TAC-tutor) to identify the needs of primary teachers in their zone. This needs analysis results in in-service provision organised by the zonal TAC tutor. It almost invariably involves scrutiny of the examination performance of children on the range of subjects taught to KCPE. In 1998, for instance, poor performance in Arts, Crafts and Music suggested a focus for in-service on those subjects in one zone visited.
TAC-tutors also receive suggestions from the school-based subject-panels (subject departments in the Primary school) as to what they might like workshop inputs on.
Each school too seems to base its needs analysis only on examination performance at KCPE. The TAC-tutors questioned kept records of all In-service courses run, of teacher attendance and of their follow-up visits to schools. They also had the KCPE results at the school level for their zone, but could show us no analysis attempting to link KCPE performance to the In-service focus in one subject or another.
We asked questions about teachers originating requests for input from the TAC-tutor based on individual perceptions of need. This was met with a little puzzlement by Heads and teachers alike as though individuals were not thought to have specific needs for support or advice.
In-service: The TAC-tutor organises and facilitates the workshop which may be zonal or school based. Their records show that the frequency of workshops is variable, but is between 4 and 8 each year.
If it is to be a zonal workshop the TAC-tutor will invite a member of the relevant subject panel from each zonal Primary school to participate at the workshop held in a convenient school in the zone. Invariably the Heads support this, providing resources for attendance through their pupil-levy. The returning teacher will then cascade the training through the subject-panel meeting in their school. The Head often attends this training in-school session, as does the TAC-tutor where possible.
School-based Inset involves the TAC-tutor running a workshop in a school for all the members of the subject panel. This may be repeated in other schools in the zone depending on the local needs analysis.
TAC-tutors said they always provided follow-up, observing lessons and counselling teachers about the successes and failures of their attempts to implement the new materials or strategies. In practice this follow up happened at different times for teachers in different schools, but teachers reported that they always received a visit in connection with a recent workshop. Given the numbers of schools each TAC-tutor had to visit and the numbers of teachers in each subject panel, some of these visits must have been of short duration, but those we observed were of whole lessons followed by detailed feedback. Inspectors too visited classes to report on teacher performance. Their comments were much less welcome being seen as judgmental, summative and never accompanied by formative classroom support.
Impact: The teachers we spoke to were all very positive about the place of the TAC-tutor, describing their sympathetic way of dealing with teachers as in direct contrast to the process of inspection. The constructive, formative assessment provided by the TAC-tutor was welcomed: that of the inspector usually drew hostile comment from teachers. We saw only patchy evidence of transfer to schools and to pupils' books of ideas from the TAC-tutor inputs. This was explained as being due to it being the very start of a new term and that all classroom displays had been dismantled before Christmas. Money for teachers to develop teaching aids, for instance, was scarce and we saw few of these. However, teachers did make an effort to develop the ideas and input from a workshop. In one school visited the teacher had used cardboard from a box scrounged from a local shop to make a visual aid to support her teaching of Mathematics. It was crude, but served its purpose.
Subsequent visits in the third phase of the study have not revealed anything had changed measurably - walls were still bare and exercise books carried little that could be directly related to In-service input. The teachers remain convinced that they change their pedagogy as a result of the one-to-one work done with the TAC tutor.
All workshops awarded teachers certificates on completion, valued by teachers for their perception of usefulness in supporting their promotion in the service. Again, the British Council asserted that there was no direct evidence linking attendance at TAC workshops with subsequent professional advancement.
Paradoxically almost, given the way in which the TAC-tutors and Zonal Inspectors were viewed by teachers, TAC-tutors were often promoted to inspectors, there being no status reward for being a TAC-tutor.
Enthusiasm: TAC-tutors, inspectors. Heads and teachers were all very complimentary about the job being done. They all wished that there were more resources for use by teachers to support their own learning and for classroom use. One Primary school used the English books from the local TRC, there being a close personal relationship between the Head of this Primary school, the TRC-tutor and the Chair of the TRC Management Committee. All wished for some central commitment to resource provision, lamenting the pressure to provide through the efforts of the community.
22.214.171.124 Observations of SIP TACs
Impact: Judging impact is a complex business. We both commented on the SIP schools we visited. They were invariably characterised by highly active classes. They all used lively teaching aids which were present to varying degrees in all the SIP programme Primary school classrooms we visited - each the product of an intensive in-service workshop run by the TAC tutors and POs.
Teachers were bright-eyed and dynamic and spoke of the rewards of the job (and they were not referring to financial rewards!). We never found a class without its teacher in a Mombasa SIP school. Compare this with the observation on teacher and pupil absenteeism made earlier and the rather weary comment from the teacher who found his job:
"....not enough. I work here at school and then I have after school classes which the parents pay and...! (Primary school Teacher, Western Kenya)
There was enthusiastic support from Heads and Management Committees. Each SIP TAC visited brought us into contact with the Chair of the TAC Management Committee, either on the TAC premises or in one of the associated primary schools. The three we talked to knew an impressive amount about the Project, the TAC and its personnel, and the schools. Their sense of pride in their involvement was tangible, but never uncritical or complacent.
We feel that the impact of SIP is best illustrated through the case of one school visited in January 1998. The school had been a SIP project school in 1997, with inputs not only from the TAC-tutor, but also from the PO working intensively with this school as one of 3 receiving this focus over the year. In 1998 it continued to participate in TAC activities but without the services of the PO who had shifted his scheduled inputs to the next group of schools in the zone. However, he continued to visit the school informally and to encourage the teachers in their efforts.
Pupils at work in this SIP Primary school.
Note the concentration of the 2 girls working on their Maths
While recognising that this school represents the extreme case, we both described it as the most energetic State Primary school we had seen in Africa! Every class we went into had abundant evidence of the focus of SIP's recent programme of development of reading skills. We walked into one second-year class, the pupils all hard at work. After the courtesies of greeting, they were soon back on task. This is itself unusual, the entry of a pair of visitors walking around, taking photographs, chatting to pupils, peering at books, poking in corners, always serves to hold the children's interest much more than any topic under study!
The air above the children was stiff with word mobiles, pictures mounted on card with labels on the other side in both Kiswahili and English, suspended from the rafters. A word-tree dominated the front of the class made of a tree-branch festooned with words on card.
The back of the class had a "curiosity corner" with all sorts of artefacts all labelled in both languages. A pile of commonplace containers of different sizes lay in a sandpit in the other corner and were being used by pupils as part of their Mathematics work on measurement. The chalkboard carried evidence of mathematics work. Times-tables on card occupied most of another wall made up of a screen "acquired" from the election booths. The school had been a polling station and the Municipality had been slow to collect its materials now pressed into service in the classrooms!
i) Pupils in the 'curiosity' corner where, as part of their Maths problem, they had been measuring quantities using different sizes of 'instruments'.
ii) Some of the boardwork from the teacher's input to the Maths lesson.
Two or three minutes after we entered the class a boy returned to his task pausing to refresh himself from the instruction sheet on his desk. Another lost interest in the visitors and craned his neck to watch a mobile spin in the wind, writing in his exercise book the word naming the object depicted. Two girls spontaneously joined another pair to compare their notes on the task on which they were engaged. Questioned, they were not overawed and explained exactly what they were doing. The teacher confirmed the accuracy of the girls' explanation later. All the children in the class could read in both languages to the limit of the targets set for them! This was the boast of the teacher and all the children we asked were able to support the claim.
All the other classrooms showed similar evidence if not quite as expertly used. The Deputy Head suggested that her teachers competed to have the best classroom with each new SIP workshop input being translated into action by all members of the relevant subject panel.
The teachers were very enthusiastic about being in the Project. The Deputy Head was extremely energetic and knew her school inside out. The TAC Committee Chairman was the Chair of the School's PTA. He kept drawing our attention to plaques on the wall -"The PTA built this (staffroom). The PTA is building that (classroom)."
The PO was deeply committed and had a quietly effective manner with his teachers -always complimenting them on their work and always dropping the hint of one new thing they could try to move further. This school showed evidence of the impact of its TAC through the involvement of all the parties - Committee Chairs, Heads and Deputies, PO, TAC tutor, teachers and children.
This overall feeling of purpose in the school contrasted with the frustration arising from having to deal with an over-stretched and under-resourced Municipal administration. Recent flooding had damaged the toilets and the sewerage system. Daily letters from the Head to the Municipal offices had drawn no response, no reply to her constant pleas. Finally, the TAC Committee had stepped in and paid for a private firm of sanitary engineers to make safe this hazard to the health of the children.
i) Materials developed by TAC Tutor for a workshop
ii) SIP classroom in another school before receiving attention from the PO
The other SIP schools we visited also had abundant evidence of the transfer of the workshop ideas to the classrooms. Although the classrooms were less vigorous than the one above, they were nonetheless remarkable for the absorption of the pupils in their work, evidence of the same materials we saw in all the schools, TAC in-service workshop inspired, produced by the teachers to support learning. Always there was the enthusiasm of the Heads and their teaching staff.
i) Class 'shop' set up in SIP classroom for Maths work
Finance: The AKES funds the employment of the POs and provides the material resources of the TAC. The remainder of the finance for additional materials, In-service and teacher support comes from the levy on parents. The Headteacher transfers a set sum, round 50ksh per pupil per year, to the Management Committee TAC account. The Committee's treasurer is active in ensuring that all schools pay their dues.
Staff Development: The AKES has funded two programmes of Higher Degree study for its officers and others associated with the Project schools. The first of these programmes was run for the Kisumu SIP personnel and successfully taught in-country by the College of St Mark and St John, the University of Exeter. The Mombasa Postgraduate Diploma and Masters programme is a University of Leeds degree also taught in-country. This commitment of the AKES to the long-term intellectual development of its staff means that those staff feel valued as well as providing a sound theoretical base for the workshop activities they go on to mount.