Kenya Big Picture Learning

Kenya Big Picture Learning believes that every child deserves access to a school that will support and allow them to realize their potential and acquire the skills and learning needed to access the job market and become productive members of both their families and communities.

KBPL improves the quality of schools and educational leadership in Nairobi informal settlements by equipping educators with the instructional skills and pedagogical principles needed to transform learning environments in our marginalized communities.

The Big Picture Model

Big Picture learning was founded by educators Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor in 1995 with the sole mission of putting students directly at the center of their own learning. BPL co-founders merged their thirty years of experience as teachers and principals and their distinct national reputations to launch this new innovation in education. With an intention to demonstrate that schooling and education can and should be radically changed.

In the schools that Big Picture Learning envisioned, students would be at the center their own education. They would spend considerable time in the community under the tutelage of mentors and they would not be evaluated solely on the basis of standardized tests. Instead, students would be assessed on exhibitions and demonstrations of achievement, on motivation, and on the habits of mind, hand, and heart  – reflecting the real world evaluations and assessments that all of us face in our everyday lives.

Dennis and Elliot began collaborating with national policymakers to design a student-centered high school and created the Big Picture Company (BPC) as launching pad for what has now become a national education reform movement. To date, Big Picture Learning has made an impact in numerous countries – from Israel to New Zealand, from Belize to China, and more – either through the creation or transformation of new schools, an influence on national education policy, or—in some cases—through the development of entire Big Picture Learning partner organizations. See more on their website.

Big Picture Learning, USA are driving change! They were listed on hundrED as top 100 education innovations in the world in 2020.

Kenya Big Picture Learning in Action

Sharon’s Hopes and Dreams

What I like about school is being around my friends, getting to learn different things about the world, and participating in co-curricular activities like music festivals. I like having supportive teachers.
My strengths are reading and writing poems, languages and humanity subjects, and reading novels and story books. I like practicing on how to become an investigative journalist.
My challenges are being out of school because of school fees, calculating mathematics and not performing well in sciences. Also, doing assignments issued by teachers and addressing a lot of people.
My hopes and dreams are to pass my final examination, which is KCSE, and make my family and teachers proud. Also, to achieve my goal of becoming an author, investigative journalist, and also an actress. I hope to meet my friend Elena very soon to present my poems to her.

Thank You Mama

A loving and caring person
What a blessing from God
You passed through a lot for me
Thank you Mama

You ran helter skelter
So that I can be successful
What an amazing person
Thank you Mama

For nine months I lived in you
You treated me like gold jewelry
I am precious and special to you
Thank you Mama

I pray for you Mama 
So that you can live long
To see my fruits that you planted
Thank you Mama 

— Sharon Khavulani, High Link Academy 

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An Educators’ Exchange in Nairobi, Kenya

Ustahimilivu Dads 2020: February 2-10, 2020

In Swahili, Ustahimilivu means resilience and dada means sister. The goal of this learning exchange is to foster resilience in participants, and in our respective communities. Ustahimilivu Dadas takes 20 women educators from the United States to Kenya, to participate in a week-long learning exchange with Kenyan educators who work in Nairobi’s community schools. 

The first Ustahimilivu Dadas cohort traveled to Kenya in April 2019. The program was a resounding success for everyone who participated–both for the women from the US as well as for our Kenyan colleagues. This is a joint project between Kenya Big Picture Learning and Elena Aguilar of Bright Morning Consulting.

Our Vision & Values

Ustahimilivu Dadas brings together North American and Kenyan women educators who are committed to healing and transforming our world through education for marginalized communities. We seek to foster international and cross-cultural learning between women educators and to support the development of Kenyan leaders. We also intend to shift dominant narratives about Africans, leadership, and women in leadership–intending for this shift to occur in all participants, both the Kenyan and the American. Finally, we hope to bring people together for learning, inspiration, celebration, and to cultivate resilience. We know that learning together, cross-cultural connections, and community makes us stronger. 

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” 

— Lilla Watson, Aboriginal activist, educator and artist
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Our Current Programs – COVID-19 Response

When Kenya closed schools in March due to the spreading pandemic, the students and teachers in our partner schools lost their lifeline. Some students are now forced to find work when possible because any additional income made will go a long way in supporting their families. The Ministry of Education has now confirmed that all schools will remain closed until January 2021.

Online Learning for Students

With the decision on school closure, we are responding by providing a unique opportunity for our students to continue learning. We have created a space for positive social interactions where our students continue to learn as they interact with other students and mentors every week. Our distance learning opportunity focuses on student identity and students’ identification of challenges in their community that they are willing to tackle while strengthening their communication skills and other essential competencies needed to succeed in life. We provide students with data bundles to each student so they can connect to the classes three times a week. This means that students need to have access to a smart phone to participate. Because of this reason, we have not been able to reach all our students, as many of the families have no access to these devices.

Schools Support

We are also working to support our schools to meet the Government requirements for school reopening in January 2021. For schools without running water, this means creating hand washing stations and providing other required supplies so that families do not have to struggle with higher school fees in 2021.  

How you can connect and support

We need your support so we can sustain our classes until end of 2020, get devices for other students where possible and prepare our partners so they can be ready for re-opening in 2021. You can join us on this journey by donating on our website (There is a donate button on each page). You can also make a difference by becoming a Patreon donor! Each gift helps us plan for a brighter future! See our Patreon Page here and register today. Kenya Big Picture Learning – Patreon Page

Our Partner Schools

Kenya Big Picture Learning

Kibera is home to an estimated 600,000 children. However, there are only three accessible public schools serving 10,000 of these children. We have found similarly low public school coverage in other informal settlements and marginalized communities, such as Kangemi and Kawangware. To respond to the overwhelming need, individuals open “informal schools”, or as we call them, community schools. 
Community schools often face resource and capacity constraints, but are necessary to fill the wide education access gap in poor communities.

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Learning through Internships

Learning through Internships (LTI) is a unique educational strategy aimed at making education more relevant and engaging. Unlike the job-training placements of prior reform generations, the Big Picture Learning approach to LTI experiences is not intended to consign students to a vocational track that steers them away from college. Part of the growing movement to prepare all students for college, careers, and civic participation, LTIs seek to engage youth in rigorous project-based learning within a “real-world” 21st-century learning context.

While the primary purpose of a student’s LTI experience is to build knowledge, understanding, and skills in the context of authentic work, fundamental to the Big Picture Learning approach, is that each student learns through pursuing his or her own interests and passions. LTIs offer a framework for teachers to gain awareness of, acknowledge, and validate the learning that occurs around these interests outside of school. By extending the educational process beyond the walls of the classroom, students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning and become inspired life-long learners.

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