A year on, teacher Heather reflects on her experiences teaching in Kenya

Dan Mew

In June 2016, we embarked on an adventure of a lifetime to Nakuru, Kenya. At this point we had just completed our third year of our teacher training degree at Nottingham Trent University.

Needless to say, our time in Kenya had a huge impact on us, however this went beyond the experiences we had out in Kenya.

We started planning our African Adventure a year in advance. We knew that we wanted to visit Africa but it was just a case of working out how to do it. We needed to go with a company that would keep us safe, would keep University happy as they had to approve our placement and most importantly ensure our parents were happy, but we wanted to travel with an organisation that would provide us a with a true reflection of life and education in Kenya. After lots of research and reading reviews online, we began our emails and calls with African Adventures where they confirmed that we had found what we had been looking for.

In addition to the practical elements of the trip; booking and confirming our itinerary etc, as teachers we felt an additional responsibility in terms of preparation. We were determined to share some of the “basic” classroom resources that are part of daily life for us at home. With that commenced hours printing resources, making and laminating shapes, posters and number lines. We also thought about educational songs and games that every teacher needs to have up their sleeve and made notes of what we wanted to share with the teachers in Kenya.

The Walk Centre is such an incredibly special place.

This was clear to see from the second we arrived as we were greeted by a school full of smiling, happy children all singing and dancing! However, it took a little while to adapt; during this time, our teacher instincts of caring for and focusing on the children made us almost forget our surroundings.

By the second day we were left to teach the lessons in our classes. We did shape hunts, drew around the children with chalk and labelled the parts of the body, used playdough to help with their letter formation and number lines to help with number bonds. We didn’t realise that the teachers were taking notes of our lessons and teaching until they started to ask us to write up our own notes and ideas to share. That was such a strange experience for us as at that time we weren’t even qualified but in Kenya, we were teaching other teachers.

That was a “pinch-me” moment.

Whilst all the children’s educational content is taught in English the classroom management parts are not. We learnt a few basic words in Swahili: well done, listen, sit down etc. This was very tricky, however demonstrated to us how hard it is to be the minority language in the classroom and therefore shed a unique light on what it must feel like for the children in our classes who speak English as an additional language.

One of the most powerful lessons we realised whilst in Kenya was that despite being in such a vastly different country with a different culture, different language, different education system and a different way of life; amongst all these differences there was one overwhelming similarity we shared with the teachers. We all wanted to provide a place where the children are happy, safe and learning. This is such a powerful lesson that we will share with all the children we will teach. No matter how many differences there may appear to be, you always share similarities with people. In addition, wherever our teaching careers may take us and despite all the lesson planning, assessments and curriculum changes, our main focus should always be that the children are happy, safe and learning.

When we look back on our time in Kenya we feel so proud, we gave over so many donations to the school and the families that we met.

The food we brought will have been long gone now, the money will have been spent, the clothes will be worn and the pencils will be blunt but the songs we taught the children will still be being sung. The teachers will be teaching lessons that involve different resources and that prompt the children’s participation and investigation skills. This is what we are most proud of.

We feel privileged that we were able to be a part of The Walk Centre and meet all of the incredible people there. We are very grateful to African Adventures and the staff and children at The Walk Centre for enriching our lives with such wonderful memories and experiences.