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I loved my primary school because we learnt lots of things by doing. I am quite proficient with knitting needles for example, because when I was 11 years old, we had a two-week project in the making of items of clothing using knitting techniques in a subject called Home Science. Ripped your trousers? No problem. I can mend them for you using an impregnable back-stitch, a technique I learnt in that same Home Science class. And as you wait for your trousers to get mended, I can make you a pancake (no eggs if you prefer) once again thanks to Home Science.

Before my Art & Craft lessons, everything I drew looked like a dog. A few years of the subject though made me proficient enough in producing fairly accurate representations of things. In the subject Science I learnt how to make a light come one when someone opened a door and I am currently writing this thanks to the writing skills I earned from my English Composition classes.

Things changed a little bit in secondary school. We spent a lot more time in class writing notes and reading text books and this bored me. I was always looking forward to making the things we were learning about but our teachers hardly stopped reading notes to us. I soon learnt that the focus was to memorise as much of the notes as possible so that I could pass exams.

I thought I would catch a respite in university because these are research institutions. To put it mildly, I was disappointed. The height of my disappointment and frustration was when during an entire semester of C++ programming, the lecturer never once took us to the computer lab to practice with a single line of code. Instead he held three-hour long classes where he would dictate lines of code with a promise that his assessments simply involved reproducing in the exam paper, what we had in our notebooks.

This was a turning point for me; I cared more about actually learning things than passing exams. So, I changed my approach by only attending lectures when I knew the lecturer did more than simply dictate notes. In place of lectures I spent time on the internet teaching myself the things I wanted to learn about.

My frustration with the education system pushed me to want to make a change. After university, I learnt all I could about education to truly appreciate the scale of the problem and then I started looking for collaborations with organisations and people that also wanted to make a change. The use of ICTs was an obvious means to effect change and through a career as an ICT in Education consultant, I have ended up here as a co-founder of Elewa, a company committed to making education meaningful.

Founding Elewa

We work as ICT in Education consultants, building applications and the capacity of teachers and schools to enhance their delivery using ICTs. Through our engagement with schools, we have seen firsthand the challenges in our education system.

We feel that our education system squanders student initiative and talent by failing to sufficiently engage them in learning. Students feel disenfranchised and this translates to a poor attitude towards learning that is carried forward into higher education.

Employers are complaining about the capacity and quality of workers entering the workforce and this is rooted in a poor education and reading culture.

We feel that students do not understand What they are learning because they are not guided well on How to go about learning it and most importantly Why they are learning it. We are passionate about these things (Why – How – What) and that is the reason Elewa is working to improve the quality of learning in secondary schools in Kenya.

In September 2015, we launched Elewa 1.0, an exam analysis tool which we hoped would help simplify the process of exam revision so much such that students, teachers and schools actually had time to focus on learning outcomes as opposed to passing exams. Through our work with Elewa 1.0, we have learnt so much more about our education system and we have met some incredible people who have helped us shape our thoughts even better as we try to improve the quality of education in Kenya.

In April 2016, we started our journey with Elewa 2.0, a total rethink about our ideas on how to deliver quality education to everyone.

Elewa 2.0

In the creation of Elewa 2.0, we conducted a purely qualitative research to try to understand Why, How and What the various actors do in the education system. The actors being Students, their Parents, the Schools they attend, the Teachers in those schools and Government’s role and oversight.

We used Simon Sinek’s principles of the Golden Circle “It all starts with Why” (Why – How – What), to deeply understand each of these actors. “Why” tells us about their beliefs and reasons for participating in education, “How” tells us about their methods and “What” is the tangible day to day activities they undertake:

Why-How-What at Macro Level – All Stakeholders in the Education System
WHY Interested in earning an education to make them productive in the future  Passionate about working with and moulding young people Carter for the educational needs of the society around them Interested in the success and independence of their children in the future Interested in the development of the country through highly productive citizens
HOW They dedicate their time, efforts and abilities towards earning useful education They acquire skills needed and find jobs in environments that suit their skill and passion Build facilities and human resources needed to make them the schools they want to be They find schools that offer the kind of education they want for their children They provide policy, budget and human resource needed to achieve the country’s educational needs
WHAT Attending school, participating in school activities, being disciplined Attending school, participating in school activities, employer compliance Ensure availability and working of all facilities, people and resources required Pay school fees, support school activities, support student learning Ensure availability of budgets and human resource to implement and manage education processes

In subsequent articles we shall be discussing the various innovations and interventions we are developing and we look forward to your comments and contributions.