Shalom Primary is the very first school World Teacher Aid built in Kenya. Situated in the Central Rift region, in Nukuru County, the school provides classes to approximately 550 student in grades 1 through 8. With its sturdy walls, well maintained grounds and classrooms providing standardized education, it may sound similar to many other primary schools in remote areas of Kenya. However there is something very extraordinary that has been taking place at this school since its formation in 2011. In addition to providing accessible, quality education to the local community, an innovative grassroots approach is ensuring students have the best possible chance at success.
As with many other east African countries, students in Kenya must pass an exam in order to move on to high school. This important benchmark often determines a student’s secondary and post-secondary options. Without a high school certificate work opportunities are limited, and the absence of student grants, loans or a social safety net means that education can play a crucial role in a young person’s future.
The teachers and educators have had their share of unique challenges along the way. As a result of Kenya’s political turmoil in 2008, large numbers of families who lived in local IDP Settlements (Internally Displaced Persons – communities that were uprooted from their homes) had been re-settled in the area. Many children had missed years of schooling and fallen behind. There was an overwhelming amount of students who required additional support in order to catch up in their grades.
Mr. Sammy Muiruri, Principal of the school for the past four years, has instituted several measures to increase the chances of his students’ success in moving on from primary school to secondary levels. He has introduced supplementary exams in grades 7 and 8 to help students practice and prepare for the final grade 8 exam. Students are also assigned extra work to help them to catch up. In addition, the school has adopted the widely practiced strategy in Kenya of keeping students an extra hour after school and having them attend classes on Saturdays. This past year the school has adopted yet another proactive approach. If a student is not doing well in their studies, rather than allow them to proceed to grade 8, they will be held back to attend remedial classes provided by the school. Once adequately prepared for grade 8 and the eventual final examination, they are then allowed to move forward.
Helping students achieve success doesn’t end at the textbook level, however. If a student fails to pass the exam and qualify for high school, Mr. Muiruri works to enroll them into a local vocational program where they can learn a new trade or skill.
With the construction of Shalom Primary School through World Teacher Aid, Mr. Muiruri worked with his teachers to introduce these programming goals, and so far they have been very encouraged by the positive outcomes. He reports that students are increasingly motivated to move on to high school and there are more students wanting to enroll. His vision is for Shalom to be among the top performing schools in the area. This seems entirely possible, given the schools track performance and how well it is respected by the community. His commitment to this vision is most often met with cooperation and enthusiasm. Those who had any doubts in the beginning are now more receptive as they see the remarkable community-wide impact the school has had.
Through Mr. Muiruri’s groundbreaking strategies and unique program initiatives, Shalom Primary continues the tradition of other schools built by World Teacher Aid by making a positive and sustainable impact on both the lives of the students and the local community.
It was once said that “A truly special teacher is very wise, and sees tomorrow in every child’s eyes” (Author unknown). Through the eyes of the children at Shalom Primary, Mr. Sammy Muiruri has seen that their tomorrow looks promising!