Final reflections on the Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu (WWW) project – Let Our Girls Succeed

22 February 2024 by John Obimo Omondi, Headteacher, Tujisaidie Community School, Kenya

My name is John Obimo Omondi and I am Headteacher of the Tujisaidie Community School. Our school was started in 1993 by a women’s group called the Tujisaidie Self-Help Project. It is located in the Eastland’s part of Nairobi in Soweto – an urban slum – and was created so that the women’s children could get a pre-school education.

In 2013, our school joined the Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu (WWW) project (translated as Let Our Girls Succeed), led by Education Development Trust and funded by UK Aid through the Girls’ Education Challenge. We had not been supported by an education organisation before, but we were hopeful that we were being helped to develop a more conducive learning environment and a better-quality education for our children. We wanted to raise literacy and numeracy standards and support our teachers with training. We were encouraged by the focus on girls. At that point, we had high rates of children dropping out of school, mostly girls. We knew this programme was going to help our girls get a better education and stay in school.

What were the main challenges?
One challenging aspect of the project was around parents’ expectations. They hoped that it would support them at home – by providing food etc – but we explained that this was about supporting the girls in school (in terms of getting quality education), in child-to-child clubs, and at home (where they would be mentored by other girls).

COVID-19 was our biggest challenge: conducting learning when the school was closed and children were not allowed to come together to avoid the spread of the virus. It was so challenging. With the support of the project we were able to bring some of the children together with a tutor - those in Standard 6, 7 and 8 at that time. We provided masks and handwashing facilities, and ensured the meeting venues were well cleaned for the safety of learners. Unfortunately, some of the children had left the city and returned to rural homes with their parents who no longer had employment.

What were the most successful interventions?
One of the most successful interventions was teacher training. We have seen significant performance improvement, especially in literacy and numeracy. In 2014, our English performance mean score was at 40.1 in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). In 2022 KCPE, English had 56. 7 mean score. In a subject like mathematics - which is said not to be favourable for girls – the girls were able to perform better. The mean score of 18 girls in the class of KCPE (2022) was at 59.7 marks, while the class mean score was at 57.8 marks. To me, this was the best part of this programme.

The digital part of the programme was also successful. The school being able to receive tablets and projectors - this was the best. We received five tablets and a projector. Most of our learners come from homes that do not even have television. Having projectors made learning audio-visual which made it more interesting and bettered performance. Science has really improved because we are able to download the videos and children can see them.

Finally, the project brought parents together. Parental engagement was a challenge to us: a big challenge. Through the WWW project, parents came together and formed a table banking and merry-go-round which are group-based funding strategies where members save money on a regular basis and can borrow from the accumulated savings to pay school fees. They came together to contribute and were able to pay fees for their children. This reduced the rate at which our children were being sent home to collect fees.

Would you do anything differently?
The only change that I would suggest for another phase would be the provision of more fees for children who are not in school. When the project started, fees were provided for learners in school. There are more children who need that support. COVID-19 really affected families, both economically and socially. In addition, there are girls who are not able to transition to secondary school for economic reasons. The rate of transition has increased because of the project’s work and we would like to see more girls supported to move on.

What is the best piece of advice you’d offer someone designing a similar programme?
I would point people I the direction of Education Development Trust and Concern Worldwide! Their project considered the girl holistically – the girl herself, the girl at home, the girl in the community and the girl in school. Getting support with the new Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) was also important. Running the CBC in our schools is a big challenge because of lack of textbooks. The project was able to support the school with textbooks in English and mathematics at a ratio of one-to-one from Standard 2 up to Standard 7.

What is the projects’ legacy?
The legacy of this project is how we interact with leaners. Firstly, we did not have a child protection policy. This is something we developed with project: the way the teachers relate with the learners, and the way the school relates with the parents. The child protection policy has made improvements that we implement from day-to-day, the policy raised awareness on child protection and safeguarding which was not well understood by the school and the wider community. This means we can now ensure our children are safe, and that girls feel safe in the community.

Secondly, teacher coaching has made a mark. Look at our performance from 2014. When the project was starting, the school had a mean score of 223. In 2022, the school’s mean score was 287. The mathematics, English and science departments have bettered learning in the classroom and bettered teamwork between the teachers - and this is something that will continue.

The programme has also connected the school with the parents. Parents feel empowered by coming together, they know it is possible to provide for themselves rather than rely on hand outs, and they now have a sense of community and a shared purpose. The project has made a mark with the parents who came together and started a merry go-round and table banking. They meet every Saturday of the week between 4pm and 6 pm and do table banking to support each family. The group has grown and have registered themselves with the government as a community-based organisation – Shining Joy Group. The parents have come together to make sure no child is left behind by making sure they are supported. The parents have come together to support girls by providing sanitary towels. They have created sanitary towel bank where parents bring sanitary towels for schoolgirls. This is a mark that I am able to see through this project. If this project leaves today, I am able to see a lot of changes.

This project has also bettered me as a school administrator. I had only academic knowledge but now I am a better school administrator through the support I have received. For example, the headteacher and school mentorship programme – The National Leaders of Education (NLE) – which has been one of the best programmes and I look forward to implementing it with many other schools. It brings schools together, sharing ideas and bettering each other. This is an idea that should never stop.

What are you proud of in terms of what has been achieved?
As a school administrator, I am proud of the knowledge I have received through this project. Look at how I am able to relate with my teachers. Look at how we are able to relate with our parents. Digital learning has made a big mark. All the tablets are helping the school to learn. We use them to key in data when sending information to the Ministry of Education and parents. This is a practice that is already entrenched as we get regular support visits by the curriculum support officers, who not only ensure that we are collecting and sending the data on a termly basis, but also ensures that we get feedback and that we are making sense of the data for school improvement.

There is a girl who could not make it to High School. The project supported her to join high school. She did her KCPE in this school, performed very well and joined St Teresa’s Girls Secondary School in Nairobi. She is currently a student in Pwani University. This is one of the things that makes me smile!

Did you learn anything about yourself through involvement in the project?
I learned quite a lot about myself. I did not know that I am a leader. The project helped me to be a better leader. I have been in the programme of National Leaders of Education where our schools were paired with others as a mentor school. I can now help more schools. These are marks that I do not want to forget. I keep the files and information I have received from this project when it started in 2014 to date, 2023. I go back to the files to remind myself of the good things this programme had has done to me personally. If I leave, I am leaving a better person, a better teacher in terms of the knowledge I have received.

Final thoughts
Running this project was not easy and we are grateful to UK Aid, Education Development Trust and Concern Worldwide for their support. The team came on board to support girls in the primary school – but it did not stop there. They also supported girls to go to High School and technical and vocational education and training. They supported our teachers to improve teaching and learning.

The child-to-child clubs have created a positive vibe and our children are more bold and more courageous to speak about themselves here in school and about what is happening outside the school, even back at home. I also remember when our school was picked - amidst many other schools – for the national science congress in Nairobi. I am proud of what this project has achieved.

Read the Final Reflections Summary here