SU wins Gold at the Oscars of Education

|By Wambui Gachari|

If you are on campus on Saturdays, you may have come across high school students tucked in at the corner of the ground floor cafeteria having a meal after spending the morning in revision sessions. During their school holidays, they troop in to campus for more extensive sessions, which include life skills sessions and one-on-one mentoring sessions. And once in a while, they go for field trips to areas that they otherwise may not have had an opportunity to be in.

In 2022, 150 students were part of this programme. Every year, after sitting the national examinations, a number of Macheo beneficiaries gain the required grade to proceed to university. Some make SU their home for the next four years while others join higher learning institutions in the country.

The success of the Macheo Achievement Programme, an education and empowerment programme started in 2012 that caters to students from informal settlements in Nairobi, has created and given birth to offshoots such as Project Tai that works with schools in Kitui and projects in Lodwar and Kilifi. With these, 17 schools are currently benefiting from the model.

To scale its impact further, the team at the Centre for Research in Education at Strathmore University, led by Dr. Alfred Kitawi, created a platform that will provide massive online open courseware to students, parents and teachers in informal settlements with the aim of solving the lack of access to quality educational material in terms of subject content, value-based content, and pedagogical content.

 The team’s efforts and ingenuity won the University the Gold award in the blended and presence learning category of the 2022 Wharton School and QS Quacquarelli Symonds (compilers of the World University Rankings) Reimagine Education awards. In the world of education, the awards are equated to the Oscars, with the win gaining the institution unmatchable prestige.

“The blended and presence learning category looks at how a higher education institution can, through virtual and physical presence, map out the future of education in terms of the integration. The innovation submitted had to show how physical presence learning will be bolstered by online technology. Additionally, it had to show scalability – that it can serve a number of people at the same time. Macheo has so far mainly been physical; the students come physically to campus for the sessions. So the big question was, how can you scale this up to serve many more?”

The awards reward innovative approaches that enhance student learning outcomes and employability. The Macheo innovation weathered gruelling competition comprising eight months, 1200 applicants, and four rounds of close expert scrutiny. The awardees included the bronze, silver and gold winners in 18 main categories and in seven regions.

The Strathmore innovation takes cognizance of the country’s transition from 8.4.4 curriculum to the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) that incorporates value based education, acknowledges the role of parents as the first educators and builds capacity in teachers. The new curriculum thus seamlessly ties in with the three existing pillars of Macheo: students, parents and teachers.

Over the years, through its various events and initiatives, Macheo has collected a substantive amount of material in terms of subject and pedagogy content, including assessments which will now form part of the content on offer on the platform.

“CBC is instructional intensive and requires a lot of instructional materials for learning to take place. Parents can testify to that. Our platform enables access to these instructional materials in digital format. Furthermore, the platform will provide access to content on parental engagement and value based education that is hard to come by thus contributing to the two new pillars in the CBC,” Dr. Kitawi adds.

Additionally, there is a wealth of value-based materials at hand for use through the platform. During Covid-19, when in person sessions became impossible, the CSC introduced the Winning at Lifeskills podcast, comprising of conversations between students and professional experts in various fields that delve into pertinent topics affecting the young. These and other life skills materials can now be used by guidance and counselling departments to deal with emerging issues.

And thanks to the experience amassed in relation to the parental pillar in Macheo through sessions run by the Programme for Family Development (PFD) at the Strathmore University Business School, the platform will provide material to parents on how to engage their children and address emerging challenges facing them.

To kick off the innovation, the platform will benefit schools already in contact through the achievement programme. With time, the team envisions scaling the platforms to East Africa and to Africa as a whole. Schools will have access at the tail end of this year: To gain access to the platform teachers, learners, parents will be linked through registered schools. To monitor its impact, the platform will be linked to a robust monitoring and evaluation framework that will measure the extent to which e-learning has taken place.

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