Suzanne is currently in Kenya to support the GEF Kenya Advisory Board, Staff and Scholars. She has been updating everyone here at GEF of all of the great experiences and students that she has encountered. Everyone here at Global Education Fund is excited to share Suzanne's tales from Kenya, enjoy!
In the US, field trips are sometimes viewed as one offs for students to get a break from school, but it appears to be more of an integral piece to a holistic educational experience than anyone realizes. In February, GEF Kenya Scholars from Nairobi, along with mentor university students from ANU traveled to visit two hydroelectric plants. The objective for students was to see for themselves how these plants work, to learn from an engineer that works there and to spend time with their mentors. Luckily, the students got a lot more out of the experience than just this. In 2008, GEF organized an extended field trip for its Kenyan Scholars to spend a few days at the experiential learning center called Batian’s View. This continues to be the most talked about experience among those who went. Not only did they get away and broaden their world but they were experiencing things that, as one scholar put it, “had only seen previously on TV.”
In the educational system in Kenya, students attend primary school (grade 1-8), take the primary school exam (KCPE), then attend secondary school (form 1-4) if they are able to get into a school and afford the school fees. At the end of form 4, in the fall, students sit for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination (KCSE). Exam results are released in February or March of the following year. Students who score a B+ or better qualify for a government subsidized spot in a public university. Those who score a C+ or better qualify to attend public universities although they are responsible for covering all the fees themselves. Of course the qualifying scores for university are adjusted every year depending on how students perform. Waiting for the KCSE results to be released can seem like a lifetime for students, and once they are known, there is still a period of waiting and figuring out what to do next. For students who get a subsidized spot, they have to wait for another eight or nine months to start university. For students who don’t get in, they have to figure out what they are going to do next: if they can come up with the funding for university than they go in the fall; if not than they have to figure out another educational opportunity they can afford, find a job or anything else. It’s definitely a time of negotiation and trade offs.
Suzanne has been impressed that most of the 19 GEF students who sat for the KCSE last year have been busy working or actively job hunting, starting up small businesses or have already taken the initiative to apply for short-term vocational courses. Few of them were doing the KCSE waiting game; they were taking their lives after secondary school into their own hands while hoping that their KCSE results would offer more opportunities beyond what they were already finding for themselves. This is the third GEF class to complete the KCSE and it’s apparent that the students who have been with GEF for longer have benefited from the program in terms of confidence and creative thinking beyond secondary school and the KCSE. The class of 2010 did well on the KCSE. GEF is proud that many of the graduates have qualified for university and three have qualified for subsidized spots! This is a significant accomplishment. Congrats!