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Apr 2, 2018

Taking Up the Challenge

Classroom Construction Progress
Classroom Construction Progress

Dear friends and partners,

Easter Greetings!

The first learning quarter in 2018 gone. I want to ask for your indulgence once again as I share about our work here.

36 years ago, in a little village on the shores of Lake Victoria a little life made the first entrance onto this place called Earth. He had no idea what the future held. These were tumultuous times. There was a thirst for change. There were forces that clamored for a kind of transformation that would lift the masses out of a perceived iron fisted political oligarch. This little boy had no idea just how far these forces could go, as was manifested four months later when a bloody coup threatened to forever isolate the community he was born into. This was Kenya. The year, 1982. The little boy was me.

Today, as I celebrate my 36th birthday, much has changed. However, the oppressive forces that surround us. Poverty is still high, corruption is a monstrous force threatening to destroy the future of our nation and social injustice is keeping communities chained to a millstone that is the lack of life transforming progress.

Technology has brought you and I together to fight for the people where they are. Together we are affecting change through innovations like GlobalGiving. Humanity is winning. Care is bringing hope to where it is needed. Since January we have continued to see progress and hope. Yet again Acres of Mercy became a part of the stories of hope that are being woven across the global community through your involvement. We have enrolled 4 students who had been denied the opportunity by the public-school system to complete their primary school education because they were not able to make the grades. Armed with the believe that every student can learn, and every student deserves every opportunity, we took them in and started the hard work that will enable them and the other 100 students have the 21st Century skills they need to succeed; The problem-solving skills, the basic literacy skills, collaborative skills and the character they would need to navigate their next level of learning.

Noticeable is our declining student enrolment. This is Our One Big Challenge. The other is difficulty recruiting the right teachers for these students. We need advice on how to access teachers who can deliver on the learning objectives that will equip our students for life. As fate would have it, and I make a big assumption here, our crop of trained teachers who are locally available at our current remuneration offering isn’t skilled enough to teach students in the way the child can learn. We have a Human Resource challenge even with the curriculum changes happening in our education system. Our challenge, together as partners is How do we leverage technology to bring great teaching to these students? Can we overcome the challenge of accessing the best teachers using technology? Is it even acceptable as a matter of policy? How do we as grassroots organizations access the wisdom of others who are successfully intervening elsewhere around the globe with the same set of challenges? What market-based strategies can we implement to resource, train, and keep the best teachers?

Meanwhile, I call for more sustained support from you our partners. When we get more partners giving recurrently we can attract the best teaching talent from outside our locality. Let’s call upon friends and friends of friends to support the cause and let’s give the students what they deserve because the world needs better people everywhere to truly progress.

Thank you for doing it yet again these last three months. The gains are real. The challenges too, but together we are pressing on, building a better world, one child by one child, one teacher by one teacher, classroom by classroom.

P.S. Consider rallying friends to help us complete the new classroom block. Thank you

Student Studying
Student Studying
Student Athletes
Student Athletes
Jan 2, 2018

Reflecting Back on Year 2017

Some of Our Staff and Their Children
Some of Our Staff and Their Children

Dear friend and project partner,

2017 has been a year of growth and development for our teaching staff. Our aim with this project has been to ensure the students get quality teaching and learning from our teachers. You have ensured that this has happened throughout the year. As our project partners, you have ensured all the teachers have been motivated to come to school every month without having to worry about whether the paycheck will come in time, because faithfully and sacrificially you have ensured that happened. Thank you.

We invested time in coaching the teachers and mentoring them to ensure high quality teaching. In 2017, we focused on training the staff on Brain Based Teaching, Inquiry Based and other effective Instructional Strategies, Classroom Management Strategies, Competency Based Curriculum, and Growth Mindset.

The school had a teacher to pupil ration of 1:13. This is an average score. The class sizes ranged from 24 to 10. The school teacher population was at a constant 13 teaching staff. The support to these teachers yielded impact in the learning and achievement of students as could be seen in the Average Class and Subject Value-Added Scores and Attendance Score.

By the end of the year compared to October 2016, Average Value-Added Scores for 2017 for the entire school grew by 28%. The score shows how much a subject or class grew in achievement from the last assessment taken at the same time in the previous year. It assumes the efforts being put in by the teacher, parents, and students, and administration yielded the growth in achievement. The average school attendance score was at 84%, which can be roughly translated to mean that at any given time the school had 112 students attending class any given day, with the main reason for non-attendance being parents not taking responsibility to contribute their portion of tuition fees.

We found that the Value Add Score is a better motivator to teachers than the mean grade as it measures how much improvement students are making. This has helped teachers focus more on strategies to improve individual student achievement rather than improving class mean scores. It also achieved a key strategy that focuses on using data and assessments to improve teaching instruction and classroom interventions which will yield quality teaching.

At the end of the year, the teachers shared their best memories from 2017. Here are some of them.

One of my best memories was when we went for a team building session accompanied by our students.” Grade 4 Class Teacher

“Guiding Learners in the dangers associated with pre-marital sex.” Counselling Teacher

“Improvement in Grade 4 Mathematics Achievement.” Grade 4 Math Teacher

“Participating with the students in the music festivals.” Grade 5 Teacher

“Seeing the learners develop interest and positive attitude toward mathematics.” Grade 8 Teacher

“Teaching students about road safety with toy cars and sound effects from a sound app. The boys enjoyed it. The girls loved it.” Grade 6 English Teacher

“Being given the opportunity to be Head of Academics. I was able to develop my skill in administration.” Head of Academics Teacher.

“My best memories were seeing children slowly by slowly take initiative in their learning and forge ahead without fear.” English Language Teacher

All this was made possible by your consistent investments in the teachers. We celebrate your successes in 2017. You both have made the year a success. One of lasting impact. Thank you.

On behalf of the teachers, the children and the Acres of Mercy Board, I wish you a great year 2018, one of success in all your endeavors and look forward to your continued support for much more impact in this year.

Teacher's Collaborating During Training
Teacher's Collaborating During Training
Students Hang Out With A Teaacher
Students Hang Out With A Teaacher
Teacher's Work Together
Teacher's Work Together
Jan 2, 2018

Looking Back to Forge Ahead

Grade 8 Students Just Before their Finals
Grade 8 Students Just Before their Finals

Dear friend,

It has been a great 2017. Since our last report “Rising Stars” we saw the end of what we could term a fairly impactful school year. I will touch on a few key highlights from the year 2017.

The school year started in January 2017 with 146 students. The term lasting through to April 2017. We started by investing in Textbooks so we can give every student better access to textbooks. During this term students participated in term one Ball Games and Athletics, an activity that plays a big role in helping us identify and nurture students’ talents in various sporting areas such as soccer, volleyball, netball, track events and field events. In 2017, we encouraged students to try their hands at Javelin and Shot Put.

When schools reopened after the April holiday, we had them participate in Drama and Music Festivals. Over 30 students participated in Performing Traditional Dance, Giving Speeches and Reciting English and Swahili Poems. We continued investing in story books and revision material for students. In April student population dropped to 138 as some parents opted to transfer their students. This was after we demanded more responsibility and involvement from parents and guardians.

In October 2017, Grade 8 students sat for the national examinations to facilitate their transition from Primary level education to High School. 24 students-12 boys and 12 girls, sat for these examinations (Kenya Certificate Primary Education).  79% of students got the opportunity to join High school while 21% would get the opportunity to go to Technical Schools. I

The exiting students did a simple exit assessment where we were learning from them which areas we needed to work on. Below are some of their responses.

“When I came to our school (Acres of Mercy). I did not know how to read, but now I can read.” J.

“I liked the good lunch and having textbooks so the pupils can learn well.” E.

“I liked the arrangement (of the classroom) in groups because we helped each other to learn what we had not understood.” H

“I liked the no corporal punishment policy in the school.” R.

Hearing these words coming from the students make us believe we had an impact in their lives.

The older students received continuous mentoring from community partners throughout the year with a team building activity in September and a group mentoring session being held in October a week before the schools closed for December holidays.

The year ended with us having one teacher to every 12 students, 1 textbook to 8 students and a school population of 134 students, of whom 65 were girls, 69 were boys. I would like to thank you for making these and many more happen in the lives of all the students we worked with in the year 2017. Thank you for the generous and continued support. I wish you an awesome and successful year 2018 on my own behalf, the children, the staff, and the Board of Acres of Mercy.

Some of Our Girls
Some of Our Girls
Teacher's Planning Together
Teacher's Planning Together
Students and Teacher's During Outdoor Learning
Students and Teacher's During Outdoor Learning
 
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