Jul 8, 2020

THE BEST PLANS HAVE NO EXPIRY- POST COVID-19 LOCKDOWNS

Friday the 13th Just Before Lockdown
Friday the 13th Just Before Lockdown

Dear friends and partners,

I hope that you have all been safe!

This is our first post COVID-19 Pandemic report. So much of the world has changed since our last report in March and so has the nature of our work. Thank you all for having us in your hearts and for working through this period with us even though things changed so much for everyone.

They certainly shifted our work form the plans we had from the years start. As a reminder we wanted to accomplish the following goals, namely; -

  1. Pursue student mentorship to motivate students and support them during their time at school
  2. Improve the level of Parental Involvement in their children’s learning
  3. Improving students’ fluency in reading and comprehension
  4. Improve teacher capacity to improve curriculum delivery and raise achievement of students and close achievement gaps for students not meeting expectations.

When lockdown in Kenya was put in place on March 12th 2020, we had just done reviewed our plans midway through the term and were ready to shift gears to implement better for the remaining half of term, but this wasn’t to be.

As I write this report, our government has officially given the school reopen date as January 3rd, 2021. However, we repositioned ourselves to intervene in our immediate community starting with our children and their families and our staff and their families to provide food support and mitigate any negative impacts that was within our power and capability to do.

The following measures were taken by the Board: -

  1. Continue raising financing to cover our teachers and staff pay
  2. Give staff paid holiday, and find ways in which staff could work from home
  3. Provide food support to staff and their families as well as to students and their families
  4. Ensure communication is maintained between school and parents of students who were to take national examinations in October and provide learning plans to these students.

In the implementation of these decisions, the following has been achieved: -

  1. Staff salaries have been paid as ‘paid leave’ at between 50%-75% of Gross Pay
  2. Staff and students have been supplied with food from March 2020 (3 months of the pandemic). As of June 6th, we were reaching over 128 people monthly with food and necessary care packages, thereby cushioning teaching and non-teaching staff from being adversely affected by the lockdown.
  3. We started a vegetable garden farm to provide food during the lockdown period to a few staff with the hope that it will be transferred to the students when they return after lockdown is lifted.
  4. Now we will focus on a Literacy Program that will hopefully help our students recover lost ground better when schools resume in January 2021,a project that will involve a lot of teacher training and ICT use.

Currently, we are working on getting our school program ready to take-off when schools are given the go ahead to reopen. With the strict requirements and  guidelines being given, we hope to raise sufficient financing to support better sanitation, hygiene and protective equipment provision as well as add extra learning space, isolation space and extra staff (school nurse and security guard) to help manage the school in a new post-COVID-19 school environment. The organization will also ensure better nutrition support for students so as not to put students at risk due to the effects of poor nutrition at home. For these reasons we are engaging in learning what is working in other parts of Africa and the world for countries that have reopened to see the role of non-profits working specially with vulnerable children through schools and other school related programs.

With the level of partner flexibility already experienced, we know we will overcome the challenges ahead to ensure that we will continue to nurture children and ensure a safe environment for them to grow and establish their foundation to be productive citizens in a new world. Thank you for this kind of support, for your dedication and sacrifice as you have held out your hearts and hands to Acres of Mercy and continue supporting the vision to reach out to our children, and the adults working with them. You too are heroes in the frontlines f our work, and we salute you and celebrate you!

Mar 11, 2020

Progress Report and Plans for 2020

Library Makerspace Under Construction
Library Makerspace Under Construction

Dear Friends and partners,

The year 2020 started in earnest from day one. The following are some key indicators for our Education program -

  1. At the end of the year when schools closed in October 2019, we had a total enrollment of 142 students, 55% (78) were boys and 45% (64) were girls. There was a 15% increase for boys’ enrolment and 28% increase in girls’ enrolment compared to 2018.
  2. On 30th February 2020 we had an enrollment at the school of 121. Of these 44% (53) were boys and 56% (68) were girls. There was a 15% (21) drop in enrolment compared to February 2019.

This can be attributed the fact that we had a transitioning class that was exiting the school and no clear strategy and plan to ensure new admissions in the new year

  1. Of the 6 classes targeted for completion in 2019, we have completed 100% of Pre-primary 1, Pre-primary 2, Grade 1. 95% of Grades 2 & 3 is 95% complete with only lighting and a few fittings remaining undone. All the classes are currently in use.
  2. We transitioned 19 students at the end of October 2019, with 95% transitioning to high schools and vocational training centers.

 

A year ago, in February 2019, we set out to achieve the following goals. I have indicated how far we went with achieving them

  1. Complete the construction of 6 classes; 5 are generally three-quarters done, and have been roofed. 1 class has been tiled, painted and had glass windows installed. The construction of 1 will start from foundation level.
  2. Complete girls’ ablution block. In 2020 we will continue this goal by raising $1200 to complete its construction by end of July 2020.
  3. Complete building a Learning Makerspace for the school. The structure is halfway done and requires $2000 to complete. We target to finish this by August 2020.
  4. Install outdoor playing equipment for pre-school children.
  5. Enroll at least 150 children by the end of the year 2019. We enrolled 142, a 95% success. Our new target is to reach 170 students in February 2021.
  6. Skill and talent development are a core mission of the organization. We had the goal of students participating in cognitive games like Chess to build their critical thinking and logic skills. The Acres of Mercy Kings & Queens Chess club has now been active for more than a year. The club had an active membership of 15 students as at end of February 2019. We have 65% of all students active in club activities in the school program. For example, the Chess Club has an active pool of 20 students and a membership of 22 students aged 5-15 years. The club is fairly equipped with 14 chess sets. We hope to acquire 10 chess clocks and a demonstration board for $330 by the end of the year.
  7. Equip students with literacy skills through reading and comprehension interventions. Between January and February 2019 over 100 story books have been borrowed from the school library and remediation classes are ongoing for children without foundational reading skills beginning at phonetical knowledge and skills. By the end of the year 2019 students had borrowed 969 books. Our goal is to have 1500 books read by children by the end of the year 2020.
  8. Ensure children are attending school regularly and are learning. By the end of February 2020, 90% of boys were attending school regularly, a 12% increase from last year. Overall Absenteeism stood at 15.08% at the end of January 2020.
  9. We also had a goal to Improve parental participation in the school life of the children under their care. In January 2019, we have had 2 parents’ meetings with a parental attendance of 50%. In January 2020, parental attendance increased to 60% of the parent population. We are still working on achieving 85% parental involvement for our school programs. Our social worker visited 60% of parents and guardians in the year 2019.
  10. Our fundraising target was to increase the support to the children from $2554 to $5000 by end of 2019.  We managed to get to $4033 disbursed to the organization to support the children program, a success rate of 81%. We will maintain the $5000 target for the end of 2020/2021 year.

On behalf of the Board, the staff and the children of Acres of Mercy we thank you for your continued support. Let’s make 2020 with all its unprecedented challenges a successful year

Children Participating in Chess Club
Children Participating in Chess Club
Mar 11, 2020

Teacher Engagement Report and Plans for 2020

Teacher Working with Class on Reading
Teacher Working with Class on Reading

Dear friends and partners,

It’s my pleasure to report on the progress we made in pursuing our goals for 2019.

In April 2019, during staff training and coaching sessions, a way forward on improving teacher performance and improve students’ involvement in education was reached. A fourth goal was incorporated during our teacher in-house training in November and December 2019.

Teachers agreed that the following goals should be pursued: -

  1. Student mentorship to motivate students and support them during their time at school
  2. Improve the level of Parental Involvement in their children’s learning
  3. Improving students’ fluency in reading and comprehension
  4. Improve teacher capacity to improve curriculum delivery and raise achievement of students and close achievement gaps for students not meeting expectations.

The decision to have these priority goals was necessitated from attendance analysis, student achievement and parental involvement data throughout the year. This Attendance Data taken from all classes revealed that average school-wide attendance at Acres of Mercy Learning Centre was 79%, down from 85% from the previous year (2018). The team agreed on a goal to improve attendance for the following term. To enable attendance and improve learning outcomes, two other areas were identified as critical. These other goals are aimed at supporting students both at school and at home.

 

During the year we had staff training that covered the following topics: -

  1. Conflict management to equip teachers in de-escalation strategies
  2. Achieving Congruency in Pursuing the School Vision
  3. Personal Development Goals
  4. Student Engagement

We made a decision to have a full-time teacher mentor whose main job description is to support students in and out of class. The teacher also doubled as a social worker making home visits, mentoring the students to set achievement goals and stay on task with meeting their set goals.

A total of 11 teachers and a volunteer attended.

Our staff turnover rate measured for the same period last year increased from 23% in 2018/2019 to 34% in 2019/2020. The organization has a target to change 30-45% of staff who are not contributing to the goals of the school without too much disruption.

We still have plans to have a Day Care Centre that will allow for lactating female staff to resume teaching at the school after their maternity leave. The planning is underway and once completed will be posted as a project on GlobalGiving upon approval by the Board.

A better remuneration plan was developed and approved by the board. The bulk of the work now remains in raising revenues to meet these changes.

By the end of 2019 year, we still haven’t found an answer to the question on how to sustainably finance our teaching costs. This is the main question we are now grappling with, and invite you our partners to share from your experience how we can implement such a strategy. The organization is in negotiation with local farmers to engage in joint agribusiness to supply the school feeding program whilst also funding core costs.

I trust that with our continued partnership we will be able to keep our current crop of teachers. in the coming months we will need help in meeting our increased direct teaching costs in salaries, which has gone up and $400 in monthly recurrent giving would cover the shortfall.

Thank you for supporting the teaching and learning at Acres of Mercy by giving to the most important people in learning- our teachers.

 
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