Located near Maji Moto, Kenya, a rural community of 7,000 with 60% of children under the age of 15 and only one accessible primary school in the locale, Nchaishi Primary School serves a great need in the region. Nchaishi is nestled within the Maasai community and currently hosts 300 students (with a school enrollment target of 360 students) nursery through Standard 8.
The community came together and, with donated land, was able to construct a primary school for their children. The school is dedicated to provide necessary instruction but, because of its remote location and harsh climate, has struggled with recruitment and retention of quality teachers. In response to this need, Asante Africa partnered with the school to build teachers’ houses. After struggles with drought, supplies, water, and transport to the site, the houses were constructed and teachers’ successfully recruited!
The Issues Confronting Rural Schools
One of the main challenges of rural school districts in East Africa is attracting and retaining teachers. The rural teacher shortage affects all subject areas but particularly math, science, and girls’ education. Long and tiring journeys to reach the school are contributing factors behind high rates of teacher absenteeism and reluctance to accept positions in these areas. Research suggests rural administrators have difficulty finding qualified teachers who fit in with the school and community, in Nchaishi it is the Masaai community, and who will stay in the position for a long period of time (necessary to provide consistency to the students).
One of the primary reasons teachers leave rural areas is isolation—social, cultural, and professional. In Tanzania, the Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU) has recorded a declining trend in the rate of students pursuing education courses in the country during the last three years because of problems facing the education sector in the country. The TTU listed lack of conducive working environment, shortage of teachers’ houses in rural areas, low pay scale, and a poor teaching environment including student/teachers ratio, lack of water, dilapidated classrooms and a dearth of textbooks/supplies as underlying factors impeding successful teaching and recruitment.
The degree to which a rural teacher becomes involved in community educational and cultural programs influences his or her decision to remain; therefore, retention requires a coordinated school-community effort. A school-community orientation can help new rural teachers overcome feelings of isolation, acquire a sense of community security, and develop professional competence. Nchaishi, with the help of Asante Africa, has encouraged this outreach and dialogue with the community and has been successful to form working partnerships with newly recruited teachers, making them feel at home and appreciated by the students and families of the area.
Nchaishi is a success story in the making not only because it is withstanding the odds against it, but because of the strong leadership and innovation from the headmaster and the community. Asante Africa looks forward to a continued positive relationship with this school as we embark on a water project – assisting the school to have access to water for drinking, preparing food for students, and proper health and sanitation.