St Blaise* Primary School, in the Ngong Hills, just south of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, was always a key school partner for Impact(Ed) when they implemented their Nawiri project between 2013 and 2020. The school had shown real interest in continuing the work started by Nawiri: integrating media into lesson content; the girls’ club; closer links with child protection services and community leaders; and using a Community Action Plan to tackle problems faced by the school. One year on from project closure, it is clear that this legacy lives on.
Embedding successful ways of working – in the midst of a pandemic
The Nawiri project closed just as COVID-19 was starting to impact daily life in Kenya, but even as it closed the legacy was felt. Between 2017 and 2020, Impact(Ed)-Nawiri encouraged schools to conduct home visits to families who needed extra support or encouragement, and when the schools closed this mattered even more. St Blaise Primary School realised it had to step up and make these visits core to what they did while schools were closed in order to prevent children – especially girls – from dropping out for good. Teachers and Board of Management members started to make visits to homes as soon as it was safe to do so, encouraging families to keep carving out time for children to learn, and to send children back to school as soon as they opened. The school also worked on their school re-opening guidelines with attention to the principles on which Impact(Ed) had trained them, such as attention to the most marginalised, and looking out for early signs of girls being at risk of dropping out.
Impact(Ed) had also made community meetings a core part of how the school operated and the school continued with this approach, throughout COVID-19 and to this day. The headteacher decided to hold numerous parents’ meetings over 2020 and 2021 to talk through how everyone could work together to support girls’ education. Together, they had honest and supportive conversations about child labour and parents’ need for extra income as the local flower farm closed and jobs were lost. Many solutions were identified by working together, such as the idea to apply for bursaries from local MPs which allowed many girls at risk of drop-out to cover school-related costs and save for transition to secondary school.
One of the things that convinced parents to send their children back to school was the availability of remedial lessons, to help girls and boys catch up after a long time away from the classroom. Impact(Ed) had trained teachers to hold remedial lessons for struggling learners in 2019, and it was always a possibility that schools might not continue with these lessons beyond the intensive project support period – simply because of the high workload of teachers and limited time outside the long teaching day. But these fears were proved wrong. The school not only continued with remedial lessons when schools re-opened, but it continues with them even now. Despite the pressures on them, teachers continued to find time for these catch-up classes to address the learning loss they saw when girls returned after the school closure.
The teachers told us that literacy is a huge problem in their school because children start education late in life and parents struggle to help with reading and writing skills due to their own low literacy levels. The teachers saw how the remedial classes started by Impact-Ed were helping children go back to the basics of reading and writing and catch-up on foundational literacy skills so they could better understand and get involved in their other classes – and have committed to keep this going.
The Shining Stars Girls’ Club
Of all the Nawiri-initiated interventions, teachers from St Blaise Primary School agree that it is the girls’ club that has been a real highlight and likely to continue for many years to come.
Five of the girls’ club members shared their reflections and aspirations: Janet*,16; Grace,13; Margaret, 16; Mercy, 15; and Lucy, 11. They give their thoughts on the club below.
"All of us were members of the club originally encouraged by Impact(Ed) and now thriving on its own – Shining Stars.
“There are around 40 girls in Shining Stars, and we meet once a week to talk about things we are worried about, watch videos with the Impact(Ed) My Better World content and spend times with our friends.
“Friends are super important to us, supporting each other’s journeys in school and after school, and being another kind of family to us. Other girls without a club miss out on a lot – and can’t get this kind of support elsewhere.
“There are good and bad things about our school. We love being able to catch up in remedial and the way that school gives us opportunities for bigger things – especially if we can get good grades and get into a good secondary school. But the girls’ toilets should be cleaner, water should be provided, and teachers should be kinder to students and find out what girls’ problems are and how they can help. We want to do more to feed this back to the school – we can talk to the mentor about this and also use our presence on the board of management to bring up these issues.
“We are excited about our futures. Lucy wants to be a lawyer because she has seen the way her aunt was a survivor of domestic violence and wants to be in a position to prevent such grave injustices for others. Margaret intends to go to a really good secondary school – and ideally it would be a girls’ boarding school. We think a lot about how to be a working woman and how it clashes with marriage and family life, and want to hear more about how this can be possible.
“At the moment the club is run by a particular teacher but if she leaves, or when we leave, when this generation changes, it will be fine and the club will continue. Our younger members are developing the skills to become the club’s champions in the future and there are also some other female teachers who could also step in. As long as we have the headteachers’ support for the club, this club can continue being a safe space for friendship and support for many years to come.”
*the names of the school and the girls have been changed