The Value of Student Development

Student development is not common in many community schools in the marginalized communities in Kenya. Big Picture learning Kenya’s mission is to activate the potential of marginalized communities, systems, and education through student-driven real world learning to unlock self-reliance, critical thinking, authenticity and global citizenship.

I didn’t get the chance to learn about life skills and other key competencies while I was in secondary school so I am really excited to see that Big Picture Learning Kenya students have this unique opportunity. They get to learn different skills such as public speaking, Cv writing, leadership, community service and self-awareness through the chain of eight which includes; positive self-concept, realistic self-appraisal, setting of long-range goals, understanding and dealing with systems of oppression, knowledge acquired in a field, availability of a strong support system, community service and successful leadership experience, exhibitions, leadership skills, and many more. (This if from the book- Beyond the Big Test by Sedlacek, William). I find this to be very engaging content especially when I compare this to what we did in high school, we only learned about the official curriculum and physical education.

Student development is essential since the students can realize their talents and abilities at a young age and work on sharpening those skills. Another benefit of learning these skills in the Big Picture model is, students not only learn how to find jobs but they also learn how to create opportunities for themselves. For many learners who are hands on and have a specific skills they are good at, they have opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship and think about projects they can start independently.

I strongly believe that the skills the students learn at Big Picture Learning Kenya will enable them to be successful in whatever they do in the future. We have talented musicians, artists, poets, writers, public speakers, community advocates, and photographers and this is just the beginning of a promising future for them! You can follow us on social media to meet some of our students, see our monthly updates and learn more about our model.

By Kelvin Mburugu – Finance and Operations Assistant

Addressing Gender Equity

I was partly raised in Nairobi and the rural area in Nyanza region. Growing up, I was an inquisitive girl and I loved engaging in various activities. With time, I slowly realized that the playmates I had over the years grew apart, boys and girls began to play separately and duties were also assigned differently. In the village, gender roles are part of socializing children into cultural norms. As a teenager, I started to become aware of challenges with gender attitudes and now as an adult, I note that many of the challenges still exist.

Lack of access to education, early marriages, domestic violence, and land and property rights are examples of issues girls in Kenya face as a result of gender inequality. Gender is a sensitive matter in our context as most gender norms and stereotypes are deeply rooted in culture and religious affiliations that people subscribe to. There is a need to discuss all these issues at different levels so we can understand how to support all children to thrive in life. Both boys and girls deserve a fair chance in life where they can fulfill their potential and achieve their dreams.

Big Picture Learning Kenya partnered with Girl Rising and initiated a program at Divine Mercy School to work with high school students. Girl Rising works with local partners by providing customized tools and curricula to build confidence and agency in girls and to change attitudes and social norms so that entire communities stand up for girls and against gender discrimination. We are excited for this new opportunity and we cannot wait to launch the program in 2021 when schools re-open. Our team was ready to hit the ground running this year until the pandemic hit and we had to shift our plans!

Our program aims to create a more gender-responsive and fair educational environment by addressing prevalent gender stereotypes and disparities by engaging with teachers and students and empowering them to drive change in their schools and communities.

Through our training, we are going to work with both boys and girls as we take a deep dive in discussing challenges at school and in the community. It was important for us to shape this program and help our community understand that discussions on gender should not only involve girls but boys as well. Our young boys are part of the society as well and they will eventually grow and be fathers, uncles, and older brothers. With this in mind, they cannot be left behind. They will all be advocates and extend these discussions among their peers.

As a Girl Rising facilitator, I hope to support our students to develop effective gender-responsive behaviors. A long term strategy will be to set up a Girl Rising school club to ensure the students can continue with to lead these sessions in years to come and learn from and with their peers.  This will make sure there is continuity in awareness and the students will continue to support each other’s success. In the long run, there will be a generation that will challenge gender norms, create awareness around gender, find ways to create equity and thrive in life!

By Lorraine Apondi – Program Officer

Online Learning – (The normal that is new)

When I was schooling in the late ninety’s, learning was characterized by cramming of content from my teachers. Students would be seated in a classroom with the blackboard being the focal point. Learning was all teacher centered, it was very rare to have group discussions or students actively engaging with their learning. This is a norm which is still similar to most students in Kenya today.

After finishing high school and joining college, this is when I was introduced to the world of computers. This signified the transition to a lot of new learning opportunities. Understanding how to operate a computer was the best experience for me because the learning was less of lectures and more of practical engagement. It also opened up many more opportunities that I never knew existed.

At this point, I am really glad that the use of computers began since this is why we have been able to continue with learning in a pandemic. It has been three months since schools closed their doors due to Covid 19. Due to the abrupt closure of schools in Nairobi, we resulted to online classes for our students. During this season, we have continued to support some of our students in learning as per the Big Picture model. Although program like internships could not go on, the training aspect continues.

Our online learning classes are enabling our students to continue learning fundamental skills even in this tough period. We conduct three classes every week and we provide data bundles for our students so they can access the classes. At the end of the week, we give the students an opportunity to exhibit what they have learnt throughout the week to their peers and facilitators. This helps in boosting their confidence and ownership of learning.

Our students are learning more about technology in this season and this is a skill they will use in their future. Critical thinking is also another skill developed in our students in ways that might not have been practiced in an in person classroom setting.  The students have to balance between classes, house chores, sharing their learning experience with peers, parents/guardians among many other things.

Although not all the students under our program are able to attend the sessions due to lack of gadgets like mobile phones and computers, we are optimistic that we can be able to reach them with printed learning materials in the next few weeks.

We are focused on focused on supporting our students to learn life skills that will enable them to succeed in their lives and thrive in their communities. As our vision states – “We envision a world where all African children access an education that supports the realization of their full potential as individuals and global citizens”.

By Crispin Oyola – Internship Coordinator

Our New Site

Welcome to our new site, which promises to be much easier for us to keep up with. There’s a Donate button on every page and we now know how to tend our content ourselves. And the most exciting part is that we will be training a young person in Kenya to be the intern learning to take care of the site themselves.