By Pia Prip Hansen
Together with two Kenyan universities (Kenyatta University and Moi University) researchers from University of Brighton have worked on strengthening the education systems in East Africa. The project title is Strengthening education systems in East Africa: mentoring for development in pre-primary and primary education (SEMESA) and was founded by the Aga Khan Foundation and ran in a two-year period from 2015 – 2017.
The twelve appointed teacher mentors came from 12 selected schools in the Wareng and Ruiru districts in Kenya. They all received professional mentor training to mentor 48 educators in schools in two regions of Kenya.
The purpose was to see how mentoring could help changing the approach to teaching in order to increase the quality of teaching – thus making school a better experience for the students – as well as to empower women (the majority of both mentors and mentees are women) and to make teaching a more attractive profession. The project established mentoring for teacher development in pre-primary and primary education. Furthermore, the aim of the study was also to develop new theoretical understandings of the relationships between pedagogy, culture and effective systems for mentoring new pre-primary and primary teachers.
Not only direct beneficiaries
Although the most direct beneficiaries was the individual teachers and their pupils, the project was designed to positively affect five groups of beneficiaries:
- mentors and mentees working in the project schools
- the children taught by those mentees and mentors
- the participating Kenyan universities through informing their Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes and building research capacity
- the Kenyan Ministry of Education and donor communities through policy contributions to raising the quality of teacher education and development
- and the research community in providing a robust evidence-base for the development of teacher mentorship theory.
Did it make a difference?
The project made a huge difference in how teaching was performed and radically changed the atmosphere as well as the physical use of the classroom. According to Project Manager and Research Fellow Dr Patricia Castanheira;
“Head teachers of the schools involved in the project report that having a mentor working closely with their teachers has had a very positive impact on the quality of teaching and on teacher engagement and motivation. Mentors and mentees are still in touch a year after the project has ended and I keep an ongoing dialogue with the mentors that were part of the project – the mentoring legacy is still rippling through the schools that were part of the project.”
However, even though the project struggles with diversity as ethnic differences play a big role in Kenyan culture, the mentoring programme transformed the teachers’ understanding of themselves and their roles.
You can meet Project Manager and Research Fellow Dr Patricia Castanheira at the Mentor+ Conference 2018 where she will share stories from the project, and present some of the most significant findings, impact and output of the project. Patricia will also transfer the experiences from the project into a European context reflecting on what schools in Europe can learn from this.