Posted by Peter Roaf on Apr 13, 2019
Kenya is in the process of changing its educational curriculum to emphasize 21st Century Learning Skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication (4 C’s) and digital literacy. BC Rotary clubs have stepped in to share knowledge through a team of educators it sent there for two weeks in Spring Break.
Building on the work of a previous Rotary District 5040 Foundation Grant, which provided computer labs to two schools in the Kitui region, south east of Nairobi, Kenyan teachers in the region reached out for support in implementing these new teaching methods, to help train teachers to teach with technology and implement 21Century Learning Skills in the classrooms of Wamunyu and the Kyaithani Cluster.
--story by PDG John Anderson
With more than 775 million people over the age of 15 who are illiterate, one of Rotary's six areas of focus is support of Basic Education and Literacy. Rotary's goal is to strengthen the capacity of communities to support basic education and literacy, reduce gender disparity in education, and increase adult literacy.
Among the various ways Rotary supports education is teacher training, by sharing knowledge and experience with educators and other professionals who work with vulnerable populations. Another way, related to the Rotary District 5040 Vocational Training Team is mentoring and coaching teachers because getting children into school isn’t enough.
RACHEL-Plus is a server which connects offline learners to the world's knowledge in over 40 countries worldwide. It is designed for use in schools, community centers, health centers, or places of learning worldwide where internet access does not exist or is limited.
Past District 5040 Governor John Anderson, a former School Superintendent, led a Rotary team which recruited through many BC communities six secondary school teachers to form Rotary District 5040’s Vocational Training Team (VTT).
The team included Kristina Willing and Helen Erickson, from Smithers Secondary School, School District 54, Tu Loan Trieu, from Ecole Glenbrook Middle School, New Westminster, in School District 40,  Jason Chow, from Richmond Secondary School in School District 38, Tom Morley, from RC Palmer Secondary School, Richmond, in School District 38, and Andy Beadon, from St. Thomas More Collegiate, in Burnaby.
VTT Team (l to r) Past District 5040 Governor John Anderson, Kristina Willing of Smithers, Tu Loan Trieu of New Westminster, Jason Chow of Richmond, Helen Erickson of Smithers, Tom Morley of Richmond, Andy Beadon of Burnaby
The BC team, chosen for its strength in using technology in everyday teaching, planned for the VTT visit to Kenya months in advance. The team members knew that their workshop material and teaching approach would have to change once they started visiting classrooms, sharing resources and understanding more clearly the needs of their Kenyan colleagues.
Whether it was teaching in the schools, conducting workshops or addressing 700 student teachers at South Eastern Kenya University our VTT team didn’t miss a step. Because of their planning and their willingness to adapt to meet the presenting needs, the teachers and students were quick to show appreciation 
Using computers at the Kenya Connect Learning CentreHelen working with student teachers at SEKO
Students welcome us to Kikaso School Lower Yatta  Girls Secondary students discover learning
John Anderson describes the team as, “an amazing group who didn’t stop working, sharing or having fun for the whole time they were there.”
The VTT was funded through an international Global Grant from The Rotary Foundation, 31 clubs in Rotary District 5040 and supported by the Government of Canada.
“We are grateful to Team VTT for bringing exceptional professional development to our teachers and for generously sharing their talents with us,” says Sharon Runge, Executive Director of Kenya Connect, which supports education in rural Kenya so that students and teachers in rural Kenya to succeed in the 21st Century. 
South Eastern Kenya University’s Dean of Education, Dr Jonathan Mwania, committed the University to sustaining the goals of the VTT. He said this project provided positive steps in implementing the new Kenyan Curriculum and changing the way teachers and students work together.
The team held four workshops over the two-week period, focused on improving instruction for digital literacy and implementing the 4 Cs of 21st Century Learning. The aim was to provide a common language and an understanding of the concepts to bring about instructional change. 
Teachers spent time in the classroom team teaching and demonstrating some of the techniques they had introduced in the workshops. At the end of the second week the VTT transferred the technology it had been using in the workshops: each of the four schools gratefully received two lap top computers, a projector and two Rachel Plus machines.
It soon became apparent that the Kenyan teachers and their students wanted plenty of hands on time at the computers and in exploring the content on the new Rachel Plus devices which allowed access a great deal of resource material without requiring an internet connection.
Working in teams is part of the 21st Century
Learning approach
Jason building a tower with Pauline and Kyalo  Presenting the gift of technology at Kyaithani Secondary
Can we touch your hair?
One member of the VTT, Smithers, BC teacher Helen Erickson, says: “The sessions had a constant buzz about them as team members mingled together and participated willingly in the various activities and brain breaks.”
Another VTT member, Richmond, BC teacher Jason Chow, says: “The struggles of Kenyan teachers are not really different from Canadian ones. We all struggle to better prepare our students for an uncertain future. We do our best to teach them knowledge and skills that will improve the quality of life for students personally, and collectively as a society.”
The VTT had been told to expect a warm reception at the four schools visit, according to Smithers, BC teacher Kristina Willing, but nothing could have prepared the team for the wildly enthusiastic welcome received at Kikaso School. She said hundreds of smiling, waving children singing and dancing milled around the team’s bus as it drove in.
Kristina says: “What a wonderfully enthusiastic welcome we received and the children couldn’t resist touching my hair and saying how soft it was!”
At each school visited, teachers and students were so welcoming, with the day usually starting with a student assembly complete with singing and dancing, to the point that New Westminster, BC teacher Tu Loan Trieu wondered, “‘How on Earth are we going to match such a performance when the Kenyan teachers visit our schools later this year?”
In November 2019, a group of Kenyan teachers will visit BC to see how our schools operate and continue the exchange with their Canadian colleagues.