Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Olives Church in Bombolulu is a busy, busy time. We have Madam Grace leading her Kiswahili Lessons, and we have volunteers teaching Maths, English, Computer Literacy, and Creative Arts to the adult members of the community all under one tin roof.
Madam Grace has been promoting Adult Education by offering free classes to the community in hopes that one day they will get their Kenyan Certified Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenyan Certified Secondary Education (KCSE) qualifications. These qualifications are crucial in securing stable, documented employment and would offer many opportunities towards a more sustainable and secure livelihood.
Maths and English are taught like regular classes going through the Kenyan curriculum with volunteers providing support through the exercises and marking exams. Teaching these classes can be difficult as there isn’t always that confidence built up in the adults to ask the right questions or even in knowing the right words to ask them if they had one. There’s also a consistency issue; if they find work they won’t show up to the lesson so volunteers are always trying to plan around that and keep on top of things as the weeks go on. It can be hard, but worthwhile when the community members finally understand the concepts and make progress towards passing the exams.
Just yesterday in Maths, two volunteers were teaching the basics of time, temperature, and speed as it was lost on the adults that day. One volunteer was particularly proud that she was able to teach someone how to read the time and was floored at how much it could really change their day to day lives. I was really happy for her and the adult she was working with.
Computer Literacy classes teach adults, who have minimal or zero experience with computers, how to type and eventually how to use programs like Excel. It truly is inspiring to watch someone go from learning how to turn on the computer to typing up their resume. These are life changing skills that are being taught during this window of time; it means the world to this community. Most, and sometimes all, volunteers feel rewarded but drained after these sessions because it can be painstakingly slow.
I remember thinking that my own dad was slow with his one finger peck typing skills but try someone who has never touched a keyboard before and typing in a language they hardly know. It is a huge challenge but takes patience and encouragement to help these learners get from where they are to where they want to be. In this twenty first century world, typing is an invaluable skill and can offer huge opportunities for those who have it and so even if it’s a bit exhausting and takes all your patience to explain what the ‘return’ button does – it is worth it.
Creative Arts was recently introduced to the adult community by a volunteer. At first there was some unsuredness as to how they would take with painting or crafting but it was a wonderful surprise to see the excitement and enthusiasm around the arts. At home, there would be too much ego and pretension around picking up a paintbrush and painting in a colouring sheet – but here? Most have never had the chance to do this as they were brought up without schools that provided the opportunity. It is wonderful to see how proud and excited they are to sit down and create something beautiful.
I sat down with a man and watched him try out one of the “Draw 50 Animals” books and noticed he wasn’t doing each step and jumping to the last one. I explained that he needs to take his time and build up to the final drawing. I showed him a few steps in drawing a horse and he quickly understood that it was clearly the only way to get that polished finished product. He started from the beginning; followed each step with some reminders from me regarding which line to erase and which ones he forgot to add. His face when he did the final strokes of his bird was one I don’t think I’ll forget. Utter amazement. His parrot – looked like a parrot. Then he was up and out of his seat showing anyone who would pay attention to his drawing. I was very proud of him.
Working with the adults of the local community helps us bring a positive image to what education means to us, their children, and for the grander community around all of us. We want to all work together to move this area forward and we know that if the adults support education and understand it’s importance, their children will be brought up by parents who believe in it and will send their children to school. Their success rates will only get higher if more and more people are on their side. Just imagine the children we’re teaching today, who are supported with the schools and encouraged to read, having children of their own whom they’ll read to and encourage in school. The differences in success rates between now and then will hopefully be huge. It may not happen with this current generation, but the more it is promoted and supported now, the more successful these children and their children’s children will be in the future; and the future is bright.