Talek Learning Resource Centre, a Gift That Lasts Forever
After a long time dreaming and planning, the Talek Primary School's Library & Learning Centre has opened! Gregory Omondi, our partner at Text Book Centre, managed the orders and brought a team to Talek for 3 days to set everything up and to work with teachers and students on programs to inspire reading. Here's his story about their long weekend together.
by Gregory Omondi
February is a month of love. During Valentines Day, people engage in acts of kindness to show love and appreciate each other. They wear red clothes and exchange red roses, symbols of love. They share cakes, chocolate, and other things to express love for each other. One thing is common, though. These gestures only last for Valentine’s Day, the 14th of February. They are short-lived endeavors that disappear immediately after Valentines is over.
But for Valentine’s Day 2021, one organization was doing things differently. OliveSeed, an American nonprofit, was redefining the meaning of Valentine’s Day. They chose to give a gift that lasts forever to over 1000 children at Talek Primary School situated in the outskirts of Northern Maasai Mara, rural Kenya, by donating an integrated learning resource centre. The resource centre includes a wide selection of books, comprising textbooks, revision books, and storybooks in English and Kiswahili for all classes from ECDE to standard 8. It also incorporates laptops with audio and ebooks, play corners with educational toys and board games, and art and craft supplies to support children's learning through creative play.
A Hub of Transformation
As one of the children rightly put it,
“A learning resource centre is a place full of books and resources to read, expand, and grow our minds, imagination, and brains."
The need for a learning resource centre was informed by the lack of access to quality resources to support the education of children in the school. The investment was driven by the desire to transform learning outcomes and unlock the value of storybooks, as foundation language textbooks that form the building blocks for language and comprehension, translating into academic success for children.
This is particularly important bearing in mind that for most Kenyan children, especially those in rural areas, English is not their first language. Yet, English forms the main language of instruction in school. The implication is that the underserved children were set to fail at school and in life from the onset. The storybooks sent in English and Kiswahili, alongside competence-based curriculum textbooks and other educational toys and board games, have the potential of improving children's proficiency in languages and aiding in comprehension of concepts in other subjects, thus translating to better academic performance.
In collaboration with Text Book Centre, OliveSeed sought to plant a seed of resources that will gradually bear fruits and feed a whole generation with information and knowledge. OliveSeed invested in the resources and facilitated a team of trainers from Text Book Centre to impart the teachers and children to effectively utilize the facility.
The first stop was the head teacher's office. We were inspired by the commitment of the teachers at this school. A discussion with the head teacher revealed that the school’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education scores have been improving consistently over the years thanks to the able leadership from the administration, the determination of the smart children, and support from the community and like-minded visionaries. The school has a shelf full of trophies and awards to showcase their exemplary performance over the years.
Participation of the Children
The commitment of the children was inspiring. As we moved to the room dedicated as the learning resource centre, a stream of thrilled children came out in large numbers to join us in setting up the space. They carried the book boxes, cleaned the room, sorted 100s of books, and categorized and arranged the books on the shelves. They actively engaged and participated in a training workshop that lasted for 2 days in the effort to impart them with skills to effectively manage and utilize the learning resources.
Driven by the desire to make reading "look and feel cool," we engaged the teachers and children in several exciting activities. First, we sought to turn children and teachers into illustrators. They listened to a read-aloud story from one of the laptops provided in the library. They then imagined each scene and, working in groups, made colorful illustrations of the key points in the story. They put together the illustrations to create picture-book versions of the story and then used the picture books to retell the story. The children found this activity very exciting and one of the teachers commented, “I have always wanted to write a book. Now I know how the creative process of writing a book and telling a story works. I will now start writing my own book.”
Enhancing the Space
The children also made their own personalized bookmarks and created wildlife-inspired shelf guides, and they selected the best for displaying in the library. The best part of the training was a commitment of the children to read as many books in the library as possible. They came up with the #52WeekReadingChallenge, a commitment to read a book every week for the next 52 weeks. To visually display their efforts, the children created a "Reading Tree" to track the books they read in the library. Every time they finish reading a book, they will post a leaf on the tree with their name, title, author, and date they finished reading. They will also fill a book review template and give to their language teacher for review and feedback.
At the end of the training, we had created an exciting and inspiring space in the school. It is our hope that this space will be a transformational and text-rich environment where children will find inspiration and stimulation to learn, broaden their imagination, and stretch their brain muscles. We believe that this space will give everyone an opportunity to explore, consume, and create knowledge, learn, grow, and thrive.
We give a big thank you to OliveSeed, Barbs, and Vincent, for envisioning and realizing this dream. Both Barbs and Vincent spent countless sleepless nights visualizing this project from ideation, to fundraising, to coordinating with the teachers to ensure that the resources provided were just right to meet the needs of their learners. We also thank the Mama Zebra Memorial Fund for constructing the building that was dedicated to host the learning resource centre. A big thank you to Amos of Basecamp Foundation and Mara Discovery Centre for coordinating the collection and delivery of the resources to the school and the logistics for the training of teachers and children in the school. And thank you to the teachers and children who sacrificed their Saturday and Sunday to participate in the training. Lastly, we appreciate the role of Text Book Centre for ensuring availability of the resources under one roof, processing, delivering the resources, setting up the learning resource centre, and providing training to the teacher and student librarians.
As we drove back to Nairobi through the Maasai Mara, I knew this was the best Valentine’s weekend ever. We had planted a seed of knowledge that will feed an entire generation. I knew that Talek Primary School will never be the same and that children will now have enough resources to feast on, to devour, and to feed their hungry brains and minds.
In Their Own Words
In the words of the deputy head teacher,
"We are certain that great things will happen here. Writers will be born. Poets will be inspired. Doctors and engineers will be nurtured. Leaders will emerge. Talents and dreams will be turned into reality. And a future will be transformed forever."
As Amos said,
"The future belongs to those who read. To be given a gift of reading and writing is to be given a future, and only those who read will win the ball game of the 21st Century."
And in the words of one of the children,
"To be surrounded by books is to be surrounded by an oasis of knowledge. And better to drown in books than to live a life full of emptiness."
We hope that this learning resource centre will be just that: A hub of transformation. And whoever steps into this centre will never come out the same. Yet, thousands of children in rural Kenya still lack access to libraries and quality reading materials. We appeal to other like-minded visionaries to join us in building a giving movement that will gift children with resources that will last forever.
About the Author
Gregory Omondi is a lover of all things books and children. He is a creative strategist helping corporates harness the persuasive power of storytelling. His experience spans 10 years in customer service, corporate sales leadership, B2B, and B2C sales and developing Go-To-Market strategies.
Gregory is currently Key Accounts Executive at Text Book Centre in Nairobi. He designs and delivers capacity-building workshops for sales professionals, storytellers, teachers, parents, and children.