#TeachersTransform education: One building, two schools - How sharing resources helped transform education in this Kenyan refugee camp
How do you accommodate 18,900 learners in nine secondary schools with limited resources? This is the dilemma faced by the team managing education in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Their solution? Create two schools in one.
As the education officer for Windle International Kenya, George Nandy oversees secondary education for Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei Settlement. The organisation supports and implements education interventions in Kakuma which serves over 180,000 refugees from South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Uganda. Their work is supported by the Kenyan government, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and other donors and partners.
Growing up in a family of 18 children, with very few resources, George understands some of the hardships that refugee learners face.
“I’m here because one teacher sacrificed to put me through school, paying for my uniform and learning materials. I’m bound to help,” says George who taught in Kakuma schools for over 6 years before taking on his current role. “By working in the refugee camp, I get to help these learners who are all vulnerable. They have suffered so much trauma, and they face so many challenges. But by transforming their education, we can support them with the skills they need to create a successful future for themselves.”
Making the most of available resources helped transform education in Kakuma
While there are currently 21 primary schools in Kakuma refugee camp, there are only seven secondary schools. Before George and the team took on the task of transforming education in the refugee camp in 2015, thousands of learners were forced to give up their schooling as there simply wasn’t enough space to accommodate them.
“Facing the ever-increasing student population, we sat down with Windle’s then executive director, Dr. Marangu Njogu, who proposed the innovative two-in-one approach to schooling,” says George.
“The system capitalises on ‘time’ as one of the major resources at our disposal. We realised that if we divided the day in half, we could accommodate two schools, and twice as many learners in one building. Each school has its own set of teachers, led by a single ‘chief principal’ who is supported by two deputies. Even the learners’ uniforms are different to make sure they attend their designated school,” says George.
How does two-in-one work?
A conventional school day runs from 8:00 AM until 4:30 PM and incorporates short and long health breaks as well as sports, clubs and society meetings. “But in the two-in-one system, the activities are compressed, so only six hours are used up,” explains George.
“The morning school starts early from 6:40 AM to 12:20 PM with two short health breaks in between. Then there’s a ten-minute changeover between schools. The afternoon school starts at 12:30 PM and ends at 6:30 PM,” says George.
“Co-curricular activities, sports, clubs, societies, and meetings are planned for when the particular school is not on session. For instance, the morning school participates in non-class activities in the afternoon. The afternoon school participates in non-class activities during the mid-morning.”
Benefits of the two-in-one school system
“The two-in-one system means we don’t have to find the money to build new buildings,” says George.
“Desks, chairs, lockers, classrooms, laboratories, kitchen, toilets, hand-washing facilities, library, reference books, ICT facilities, playgrounds, sports facilities and assembly grounds are all shared by the two schools," says George.
The innovative system also helps decrease teacher fatigue.
“Some Kenyan schools use the double-shift system where learners attend in two shifts, but the same teachers stay throughout the day. However, this leads to teacher exhaustion. With two-in-one system, teachers are able to give their very best in all of their classes.”
A transformative new curriculum requires extensive resources
While the two-in-one solution is helping more learners access secondary education in the Kakuma refugee camp, the student to teacher ratio is still exceptionally high.
“Currently, the average is 120 learners per teacher. “So we are working with the Kenyan government, donors, and other organisations to try to solve this.”
Decreasing the ratio will be even more important in 2023 when the Kenyan government begins rolling out a new competency-based curriculum. Instead of focusing on grades, the approach focuses on helping learners develop the skills, knowledge & talents they need when they leave school, whether it’s for tertiary education, or the workplace. It is learner-centred instead of teacher-centred and allows each learner to progress and master skills at their own pace.
“With a focus on ICT skills, the new system will help the learners thrive in an everchanging world,” says George.
However, while the new curriculum has many benefits, it requires just 30 learners per class, and relies on the teacher paying more attention to each individual.
“Currently we employ 335 teachers for 18,900 learners, and counting… but the new curriculum will require more teachers, additional classrooms, laboratories, technology, textbooks, and learning materials.
“We rely on generous donors to help us manage these needs. Their support helps us build and develop schools for the Kakuma refugee children, giving them a chance to transform their future through education.”
Despite the challenges ahead, George believes that the competency-based approach will equip the learners with the skills and knowledge they need to pursue careers in the 21st century.
The peacemakers of the future
For George, making sure learners have access to a solid education is not just about helping them build more secure livelihoods. It’s also about ensuring they have the skills to make a positive impact on society.
“Education plays a major role in obtaining peace in our world,” says George. “A good education empowers the learners to return to their countries one day, to take part in conflict resolution, and peace-keeping, and become the leaders of the future.”
Learn more about the #TeachersTransform campaign as part of the Transforming Education Summit.
Photo credit: John Cummings
School Leadership & Governance in Crisis Contexts - sharing good practice, lessons learned and opportunities for change
Please register here
INEE’s Teachers in Crisis Contexts (TiCC) Collaborative, in partnership with the LEGO Foundation, Education International, Oxfam, UNESCO, and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, have come together to support a Call to Action to transform sector-wide support to teachers in crisis contexts.
Part of this work is to share examples of promising approaches and persistent challenges across policy, practice, and research related to four thematic areas: teacher well-being, teacher management, teacher professional development, and school leadership and governance.
This webinar is the fourth and final in a series to contribute to a growing evidence base on how to improve the ways that we support teachers through prioritizing school leadership policies and practices (i.e., school leader professional development and support, community governance models, preparedness and recovery planning, etc.). School leaders are a vital part of the school ecology. They are key to providing quality, equitable education and improving the school climate for all teachers and students so children and youth are better able to learn. . As our colleague Yel Luka, a deputy head teacher in Kakuma refugee camp, explained, “I find immense meaning in my work... however I find my role to be demanding with little financial incentive which can leave me exhausted and unmotivated.”
Through a moderated discussion, school leaders and Education in Emergencies actors working across contexts such as Colombia, Kenya, and Tanzania will share share good practice, lessons learned, and opportunities for change to improve leadership and governance of teachers doing extraordinary work amidst extraordinarily challenging settings.
- Christina Raphael - Senior Lecturer in Educational Leadership, Management and Policy studies, Deputy Principal - Academic Research and Consultancy: Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE), Tanzania
- Sandra Barreto and Nicole Bruskewitz - COO and CPO, CoSchool, Colombia
- Stuart McAlpine - Team Lead, LEGO Playful Schools initiative
Moderators and Presenters:
- Andrew Armstrong - INEE
- Charlotte Berquin - UNHCR
- Chris Henderson - Teachers College, Columbia University
- Mary Mendenhall - Teachers College, Columbia University
N.B. This web event will be conducted in English with closed captioning in English.
If you have any questions about the web event, contact: email@example.com
Education disruptions due to the COVID-19 crisis have shone the light on existing disparities separating learners between and within countries. We spoke to two teachers who supported their students and helped their communities overcome immense hardship throughout the pandemic, despite lacking necessary resources. Their stories show how teachers are at the heart of combating disadvantage and ensuring learning continuity. They also highlight the dire need for more investment in teachers and schools.
Sarita Nair teaches at Chetan Dattaji Gaikwad English Medium School and Junior College in Pune, India. Prior to the pandemic, students and teachers at her school were completely reliant on the traditional teaching and learning methods. There was limited use of digital technology by teachers due to lack of resources and no access to advanced teaching tools. Very few parents participated in student's day to day learning and were completely dependent on the school's education system.
Florence Ooyo, who teaches at Brightburn School in Nairobi, Kenya explained that before the pandemic emerged, some students already could not afford adequate materials and resources for learning, or even their school fees, leading them to stay home and disrupting their education. Some students also dealt with family conflict issues, causing them socio-emotional distress and impacting their ability to focus in class. “It makes work difficult for the teacher to complete the syllabus since at times you find a quarter of the class away from school,” Florence told us.
Coronavirus created an array of new problems for teachers and students. Joblessness affected the parents of many students at Brightburn School, causing many of them to relocate to rural areas in order to sustain their family and absenteeism surged even higher. Many families were surviving with one or two meals per day, causing children to lack the necessary nutrition to thrive in school. Uncertainty led to anxiety and trauma “What about tomorrow?” Florence wondered, “What is going to take place in the coming days? Most of the families were really affected psychologically and emotionally by this uncertainty.”
“The teachers too were affected by this uncertainty,” Florence told us. Unsure if they would get their next paycheck, many took on second jobs and tried to find additional ways to make ends meet. As many teachers did in fact lose their pay as schools closed down, Florence worked with organizations in the area to distribute food to her students and fellow teachers. She also visited students at home and provided them with the necessary tools to continue learning.
Florence emphasized the need to build a relationship with each student to understand their particular needs, help them build their self-esteem and support them socio-emotionally.
Sarita shared stories of similar challenges at her school in India:
"Fear of the disease and uncertainty gripped everyone mentally and physically. The pandemic brought new challenges for the teachers; the transition from in-person classroom teaching to virtual and to online classes and adapting to Zoom class completely presented a unique challenge. The teachers and students were majorly hit financially. Many parents lost their daily wages due to the unforeseen turn of events due to the Covid -19.”
Sarita and her fellow teachers took part in a training program to adapt to online classes. They reached out to various external organizations to raise funds and resources to support the community with necessary devices for remote learning as well as nutritional support for families struggling to make ends meet.
She also noted that, “teachers invested time and energy in communicating frequently and building relationships with the parents and children even during school vacations. This was seen as important because the school felt they were an integral part of the community they were serving and wanted to ensure they supported them in every possible way.”
“Lack of personal contact with students by the teachers, emotional turmoil due to death of relatives, no school hours, adapting to no physical activity and no social interaction... This scenario caused behavioral changes amongst the students,” she told us. To deal with this they set up daily activities that involved students’ parents, including arts and crafts, gardening, science experiments, and storytelling sessions focused on mental wellbeing. The school also found ways to celebrate local festivals from home, touring students’ homes virtually to see the way they decorate their homes and participate in the festivals.
“The idea was to keep the community together, connected and provide a sense of belonging and comfort knowing everyone was dealing with this unique situation and that we are not alone in this war against Covid-19,” Sarita explained.
When lockdown restrictions eased, teachers visited students at home to get a sense of how they and their families were coping. In addition to mobile phones and tablets, they distributed food rations to families in need. Financially secure parents lent a hand to support students and donated books through the "Parents as Partners" initiative. "We ensured that all the students continued to get education irrespective of their ability to pay their school fee," Sarita concluded.
Sarita and Florence’s stories show how teachers are at the heart of learning continuity and highlight the dire need for more investment in teachers and schools. Education systems were already in need of investment prior to the pandemic, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made matters much worse, jeopardizing progress and widening already large disparities between high- and low-income countries. No teacher should have to worry about whether they will receive their next paycheck. No student should have to drop out because they cannot afford tuition fees or school materials.
In sub-Saharan Africa the pupil/trained teacher ratio is close to one trained teacher per 58 pupils at primary level and approximately 43 pupils per trained teacher at secondary. Furthermore, new projections show that by 2030, countries in the region will need to recruit 15 million teachers. Florence is hoping that moving forwards, policy-makers and education stakeholders wake up to these realities: “The government needs to support us and acknowledge the effort our community schools are making.”
The International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 is thus calling on national governments, the international community and education funders – both public and private – to invest in a human-centred approach to recovery by building resilient, teacher-supportive education systems that recognize the critical role teachers play in communities. This should include increasing domestic and international funding, developing holistic teacher policies that have been properly budgeted, strengthening teacher capacity and autonomy, and investing in data and information systems that improve effectiveness.
Thanks to Alokit, Dignitas and Global School Leaders for their support in contacting Sarita and Florence.
Caption: Beawar, Rajasthan, India, April 6, 2021: A teacher and students wearing protective face mask in a classroom at a school amid spike in coronavirus cases across the country.
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com/Sumit Saraswat