The following post is written by Kalifa Wright, a rising senior at Duke who is working with the WISERBridge schools this summer.
Spending my summer working in Kenya with WISER and interacting with the Muhuru Bay community has truly been quite a unique experience. First and foremost, the young ladies at WISER are phenomenal; they are as hardworking and studious as they are energetic and charismatic. In addition, the teachers at the participating WISER-Bridge primary schools, and the community as a whole have been so warm and welcoming. Their open-arms make teaching in a low resource environment that much easier. At the three schools which I have taught over the course of the last few weeks, I have been blessed with students who are eager to learn, scholastically and cross-culturally. Hence, even when situations are trying, it is motivating to know that the students are ambitious. Although I only mimicked the long term commitment of being a primary school teacher for a mere 6 weeks, my respect for educators has grown exponentially. In many situations, these teachers do not receive the respect or thanks that they deserve.
During my visits to the schools, I have discussed with teachers on several occasions about the perceived status of education in the country. Many of them have disclosed with me how the next generation is being deterred from teaching professions because of lack of income and respect from the government. Furthermore, this leads to the cyclical decline of neglected school systems. We see teachers who are underpaid and unmotivated to teach, which leads to students who are uneducated regardless of their willingness to learn. It is evident that public schools in particular need so much more support from the government in order to improve educational standards in the community.
Through these discussions, however, I have noticed a similarity in distress between teachers in Muhuru Bay as well as those in the United States; both with similar complaints of lack of support and income. Of course, we cannot forget that a multitude of factors contribute to the success or downfall of education systems. However, in both scenarios there are issues revolving around unequal distributions of resources which can dramatically impact the lives of the students in the system. In addition, the perceived lifestyle associated with being an educator (particularly for primary and secondary schools) creates a lack of interest in the profession, and results in a shortage of teachers.
I would have loved to have the opportunity to work with government organizations that play an important part in the education system to further investigate government impact and contribution on education. Because, whether in the United States or rural Kenya, it is evident that education reform is crucial.
When did education become so forgotten? When did we forget that education is a crucial building block to the advancement of a society, a country?