“The Kenyan 8-4-4 educational system is not as bad as it has been portrayed,” says Hemed Mukui, an educationist with over 20 years experience.
However, he says the government has not fully exploited the potential of this system.
Mukui, one of the founders of Kencada International School, in Utange Mombasa, says they have tried to modify the 8-4-4 system in their institution and the results have been encouraging. “All our pupils have shown passion to learn new things,” he says.
As the national government grapples on how to introduce laptops for class one pupils in public primary schools, at Kencada the kindergarten pupils are already using iPads.
The school has developed a Heart, Mind and Action concept — whereby the children are taught in class, go for field excursions and are given assignments that will require them use internet search engines like Google.
“We promote a reading culture and to make them understand more, we take them for field trips where they get to see the things in reality,” says Mukui.
Pupils are also allowed to exploit their talents in drawing, singing and games.
The school was founded by Mukui in partnership with Michael McGuire and Anke Jenkins from Canada.
The three met at a public primary school in Changamwe in 2011, where Jenkins and McGuire had come for a sponsorship programme.
Together they dreamt of a school experience that would connect Kenya and Canada, under a common vision — an affordable, innovative, high-quality education, says Mukui.
He says from this initial meeting in Changamwe, numerous discussions took place over three years across the two continents as they deliberated on how to achieve this dream.
“The result has been the creation of a community school with an international presence that prepares the children of Kenya for the 21st century,” says Mukui.
Mukui says instead of teaching an international curriculum, they opted to improve on the Kenyan system.
“The feedback from parents has been overwhelming. Some of the children even want to come to school on Saturday and Sundays,” he says.
The school opened its doors in January 2014 and currently has more than 80 pupils from baby class to class three.
“We have received numerous requests from parents who want to bring in their children next year January,” says Mukui.
Jenkins, the Kencada director of operations, came to Kenya in 2011 with an NGO, A Better World. She led the establishment of a self-sustaining pre-school called Jipe Moyo in Rabai in Kilifi county.
This pre-school opened its doors in 2012 and has since grown from a one-room baby class to a multi-room school including a primary school.
Jenkin’s belief in holistic childhood development has brought medical teams and a steady flow of international educators and supporters to Jipe Moyo.
“Education should not be about teaching knowledge alone but also teaching skills. This is what we focus on at Kencada,” she says.
McGuire, who is Kencada’s executive director, has 25 years of education experience in teaching, curriculum design, leadership, and programme development.
After receiving his Masters in Curriculum Design and Leadership in 2000, he developed several experiential education programmes in Canada.
His passion for education and international development has also taken him to Ethiopia where he assisted in the establishment of a community school in Jimma.
During this time, he worked to establish Circus Jimma, a community based circus school that has since toured Africa, according to information on Kencada’s official website.
“The child’s mind need to be developed through hearing, seeing, touching and even experiencing,” says McGuire, adding that the Kenyan government should adopt their concept.
“We are sure that this model would be very good for the Kenyan system. It should not be about examinations or reading so much, children need to be given a chance to grow with modern technology and also nurture their talents,” he says.
Mukui says the Aga Khan Educational Centre has approved their approach on education and urged other primary schools to emulate Kencada.