November 2010 Newsletter (Volume 5, Issue 4)
Story told by Gathii Kanyi- Asante Africa Foundation, Kenya Program Manager
One of the biggest stresses in a student’s school life in East Africa is the exam process. Their scores determine admission to the next grade as well as the caliber of school you are eligible for in the future. The headmaster at Enkare Ng’iro Primary School in Kenya asked Asante Africa Foundation to team with him to host a “mock exam competition” in the Narok Region to help the students get comfortable taking these intimidating exams. We readily agreed, knowing that such an experience will go far to enable better learning and performance.
On the morning of July 7th, 2010 a fleet of vans traveled from 16 Kenyan school regions carrying 445 boys and 379 girls to the host school, Enkare Ng’iro Primary School. The local community waited patiently, hearts pounding excitement. Local students were given two or more visiting students to host in their homes for the duration of the exercise. The effect of this gesture was tremendous as friendship were formed without the tribal conflict that is often displayed.
To prepare the students for this important exercise, parents gave encouragement to face the test, and made sure they had pocket money in case they needed something not provided by the school. The teachers coached the students to out-perform their peers in other schools. Each school released at least two teachers to accompany the students and help in the administration of the exams.
The host school was the busiest of all. The head teacher organized the teachers and the community. Accommodation was tricky to be sure all visiting students and teachers were able to board around the school, which does not have a dorm or teachers’ houses. The neighboring centre came in handy as temporary sleeping quarters for visiting teachers. Asante Africa was given the tasks of arranging the awards ceremony, trophies and top prizes. We were also responsible for providing enough food for all 1000+ participants as well as all exam materials needed during the 4 days.
The day launched promptly at 7am, and the participants’ excitement and anticipation was evident. With informal introductions, small groups exchanged pleasantries and updating each other of the progress in their schools. The first exam began in English composition followed by Kiswahili composition, known as Insha ya Kiswahili, with each brief paper taking 45 minutes. Next were exams in grammar, both in English and Kiswahili.
Teachers did not waste time, starting the hard work of marking immediately the first paper was concluded. Every teacher had a role, if not marking, they were supervising the exam or entering marks in the mark list or assisting in the kitchen. The students too were of great help. They helped sort rice, peel potatoes, grate carrots etc. Village women helped in preparing food and doing dishes. Men slaughtered goats and a bull donated by the community. There was enough food for everyone.
Every day had a similar flow with different subjects. Finally on day 4, the “prize giving” time came and the whole village turned out to watch the results. The Ministry of Education was represented by the District Quality Assurance and Standardization officer and two other officials. They were amazed by the community support, the village excitement, and the overall organization displayed by the organizing committee. Asante Africa Foundation was proud to have been singled out to support making this opportunity real for 900 students. They expressed gratitude for our funding of the event and helping the Headmaster realize his vision, recognizing our unique approach to taking a supportive back seat role as the proper direction for future partnerships.
In total, Class 7 and 8 frm 20 schools were involved from the Osupuko Division in Narok South District. The top girl (Dorina Atichi of Enkare Nairowua Primary) and boy (Mesenka Twala of Ntuka Primary) both scored 378 marks out of 500. Everyone who participated; student, parent, teacher, hosting neighbors and headmasters, left inspired and confident that their students were now ready to tackle those intimidating exams to come in Fall 2010.
Today, we are happy to announce that the majority of the students who finished exams this month are feeling self assured and confident that they did the best they could and they have confidence that their exam scores will help them “go to the next level”. This great idea had great results for all involved.