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Jambo! Visiting the School of Education at Kenyatta University, Nairobi


The Doctor (that's my wife: no regeneration powers or Tardis but two hearts) and I both love to travel and this year has been a lucky one: a trip to Kenya in June to follow our visit to South Africa earlier in the year. Whenever we are away for 'workation', we always like to meet up with colleagues who work in education. It is a great opportunity to get insights into the perspectives, practices and challenges of educational practitioners around the world.  

In Nairobi, I met with two leading staff from Kenyatta University: Professor Kisulu Kombo (Dean of the School of Education) and Dr Peter Mugo Gathara (Head of Department of Educational Foundations). It was a warm welcome and involved many cups of Kenyan tea, a visit to Dr Peter's house and sampling milk from Dr Peter's cows while we were there. Asante sana! 

At Kenyatta University Nairobi: Dr Peter Mugo Gathara, Head of Department of Educational Foundations (left), me (centre), and Professor Kisulu Kombo, Dean of the School of Education (right)
During our meeting, we discussed teacher training in Kenya as well as educational reform. Following the global trend for intensive educational reform, Kenya is currently in the process of overhauling their National Curriculum. Read more about it here.

The key change affecting early education sees the existing 8 year primary stage split into a two years pre-primary and six year primary education. The reforms also state a new focus on pedagogy, personalised learning and inclusion with teachers expected to deliver a higher quality of education.

Sounds promising.

But this drastic reform programme clearly faces challenges. Resources in Kenyan state education are limited and a huge discrepancy remains between the quality of state education in different areas of the country. What might be practical in urban Nairobi may be harder to implement in isolated, rural regions.

Crucially, there is also a sense that primary education lacks status in the Kenyan system and, by consequence, so do its teachers. With the new reforms demanding professional excellence from educators, it is hard to see how this can be fulfilled when class sizes are large, professional training is limited and an unhealthy attachment to standardised assessment remains.

It will be interesting to see whether this ambitious programme can fulfil its ambitions. 

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