Sometimes something as simple as observing colleagues is enough to motivate someone to set higher goals, as this Kenyan schoolteacher discovered after taking part in a peer exchange with another school district. The visit was part of the CWS School Safe Zones program in East Africa:
“Even with being on the right track, you can get run over if you just sit there….”
I hadn’t thought about this until I joined teacher colleagues from various schools in Nairobi, Kenya, on a CWS-sponsored peer exchange visit to Eldoret municipality. The bumpy five-hour ride was itself a great experience. The opportunity to travel along with colleagues from different schools was most exciting. We told stories and sang most of the way. This helped calm my nerves, as I was overly anxious over what we were expecting to see in Eldoret.
“Were we prepared enough? How do our hosts perceive us, considering they rate high academically compared to us in the Nairobi region? These questions kept nagging me. We took a lunch break in Naivasha, which gave us the chance to reflect on and discuss the pre-visit questionnaire.
Finally, we arrived in Eldoret municipality. The first day was great. The organized meeting with His Worship the Mayor of Eldoret and other key dignitaries was mind blowing. At one time I was asked to give the vote of thanks, which made me feel so respected as a teacher.
The visits to schools were most exciting as each school was unique. Schools there had made progress despite incessant breakouts of ethnic violence occasioned by land disputes. Although students were drawn from the different ethnicities living in the area they co-existed harmoniously at the school, with teachers helping them realize they are one big family. The parents’ commitment to protection of children was evident. We learned a lot from the cooperation and resilience the teachers in Eldoret displayed. This was a great lesson to us coming from Nairobi slums where similar violence has occurred, especially in 2008, and caused negative impact at affected schools.
As we reluctantly packed our bags on the third day and exchanged contacts with our hosts, one thing was clear: True learning happens when teachers move out of their familiar zones into newer areas they have never been to before. I am now energized and determined to move my school to higher grades. If my colleagues in Eldoret are doing a lot with so little, how high can I go given the facilities, electricity and water we are fortunate have at our school?
Learn more about how the CWS School Safe Zones program is helping students and teachers set and attain higher goals for education.