Training pre-school teachers in Kenya gives young children a head start in learning and development

Seven-year-old Lecinta raises her hand and offers to lead her class in a song and prayer before their lessons begin. She has been attending the St. Michael’s Academy Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre in Migori County, Kenya for three years now and has flourished.

According to her teacher Dorcas Owiti, when Lecinta first joined the school she did not know her letters or numbers and lacked social skills. Now she is one of her best students. “Lecinta is very good in math. She has developed great leadership skills and she can read and write very well. She even reads the newspaper with ease,” says Dorcas.

Seven-year-old Lecinta is one of the best students at the St. Michael’s Academy Early Childhood Development centre. She'll be ready for primary school thanks to the help of her teacher, Dorcas. (Photo credit: Angela Omune / World Vision)

Dorcas has been teaching at St. Michael’s Academy for eight years. In 2012, she was one of 30 teachers trained by World Vision on Early Childhood Development. The teachers, from 30 schools in the region, each teach approximately 30 to 40 students. The training has impacted approximately 900 students in the region. “The training helped sharpen our skills and provided a curriculum to ensure consistency [in our teaching methods],” says Dorcas.

The St. Michael Academy ECD centre has three different class levels for infants, nursery school students and pre-school learners. The pre-school is made up of children from three to seven years of age and prepares them for primary school. At the centre children are taught languages, outdoor activities, environmental activities and creative arts. All the students from the ECD centre have successfully transitioned to primary school class one.

"Those who started ECD, like my first students who are now in class seven, are always on top,” says ECD teacher, Dorcas Owiti.

Dorcas has seen first-hand the impact ECD has on children. She says that those who went through ECD classes perform better in primary school than those who started primary school without going for ECD classes. “There is a big difference. Those who started ECD, like my first students who are now in class seven, are always on top,” says Dorcas.

In July 2015, World Vision provided ten ECD teachers with follow-up training on life skills. According to Richard Atundi, an Area Development Programme Manager at World Vision Kenya, there was an increase in the drop-out rate of students in primary school in the area. This necessitated training of teachers on life skills to enable them to identify students in need and intervene before those students dropped out of school. “ECD is a very important institution to help kids acclimatise to school so it should be run well. Teachers need to be well trained to deal with children and ignite their passion [for learning],” says Mr. Atundi.

Dorcas also attended this training which she says helped her know how to handle children and give them the necessary support so that they love school and enjoy learning. This will likely reduce chances of students dropping out of school later on. “The students know this is a safe environment and if they have any issues at home they can open up to me,” says Dorcas.

Lecinta and her classmates perform a nursery rhyme. (Photo credit: Angela Omune / World Vision)

"When I grow up I’m going to be an engineer,” says Lecinta.

The whole community is noticing the difference that ECD programmes makes to their children. More parents are enroling their children for classes than ever before. There are currently 73 students at the St. Michael’s ECD centre compared to less than ten students eight years ago when Dorcas started teaching. “More and more parents are bringing in their children from an early age,” says Dorcas.

Thanks to the ECD classes, students like Lecinta are equipped to join primary school and do well. “I am excited about going to class one next year.  When I grow up I’m going to be an engineer,” says Lecinta.

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