Reading to Secure the Future at Konyango School, Kenya

The Problem

Konyango is a community in transition. The economic pressures to abandon the traditional way of life has been on a sharp increase. For hundreds of years, Konyango’s livelihood has been based on fishing, rearing cattle, and farming. The government’s interventions over the last 5 years have led to the collapse of the fishing industry, forcing many young men to seek employment in the urban areas. The rapid development of Kisumu, the closest town to Konyango, has also led to an influx of foreign settlers and investors willing to pay high prices for land. Conflicts over land sale between family members have become common and the culture of inheriting land is gradually diminishing. Land sale to foreigners coupled with increasing local population strains farming and grazing land, in turn threatening Konyango’s food security and forcing families to own fewer animals. The repercussions of these changes will be strongly felt by the new generations of Konyango. Many will be forced to establish their homes away from their community, to seek new sources of livelihood, and to learn how to live with communities from different social, cultural, and racial backgrounds. The need to equip this younger generation with knowledge and skills to address these changes is urgent. Equally needed is an education that prepares them for the greater world outside their rural homes.

Plan of Action

Reading is a vital skill to function in today’s society. I will strengthen and expand a reading development program (RDP) that i started last year at the school and work on integrating it into the school’s curriculum. Ms. Beryl Ochieng (berochieng@yahoo.com), the school manager, approves this program and is committed to its implementation. Upgrading and sustaining the RDP will require fully equipping the school library, training the Konyango teachers and furnishing the classrooms. Before the project begins, I will collaborate with Ms. Ochieng to hire a professional teacher trainer. In addition, I will meet with the library staff at Williams College to learn more about library cataloguing, and electronic recording. The first two weeks of the project will be about the physical and material preparation for the RDP. This will involve meetings with the school management, plastering the 4 classrooms, buying desks, and installing electricity. It will also include stocking the library, establishing an electronic library recording system, and installing reading software on the laptops. In weeks 3 to 5, I will conduct 45-minute reading lessons in each of the classes along with two-hour computer training for the teachers so that they can use technology in the teaching and learning process. For the computer training, I will use 15 modules that were developed by Williams College students for a computer-training program that we conducted in Uganda this January. The class teachers will shadow the RDP. Saturdays will be devoted to the RDP teacher training with the help of a professional teacher trainer. During week 6 to 8, the teachers will conduct the RDP while I support them in the classroom. The computer trainings and the Saturday teacher trainings will continue. Week 8 will also involve meetings with the teachers, the management, parents and students for final reflections, as the RDP becomes part of the school routine.

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