CoH Stories:
Judy Mugambi

In 2007, I was one of the people who were affected by the post-election violence in Kenya. I found myself in one of the Internal Displacement Monitoring camps near Nakuru town. There, in the camp, I met Jane and Hellen and we decided to volunteer as Early Childhood teachers. We started in a church from the neighbouring community that we were allowed to use. The church was very small and had no doors or windows. Then UNICEF supported us by giving us a big tent in which we could conduct our classes.

In 2009, AMI visited the school, where we were practising the Kenyan curriculum. After a discussion with the elders in our community, AMI enabled eight of us to join St Ann's Montessori college in the year 2010. In 2011 we took the exam and graduated as 3-6 guides.

During our training, seven beautiful children houses, a kitchen, and an office were constructed. We started with 8 teachers from the camp, two mentor teachers, and two cooks. As we had no houses to live in, beautiful houses were then constructed for the eight pioneer teachers.

The school was given the name Corner of Hope. Through the help of our two mentor teachers, we adopted the Montessori curriculum quickly. The children and parents really appreciated the school.

I worked in Corner of Hope for eight years, and during this time I gained knowledge and a lot of experience in working with children. I came to understand that children should be guided, but also left to explore by themselves. I learned that Montessori helps the child to adapt to the world and then love and respect it. The materials satisfy the children's needs and the children develop fully, no matter where they are. I came to know that a child should be given freedom with limits, love and respect.
The Montessori classrooms were now set up and the children, who before had no opportunity to get education, adapted quickly. Both communities were very happy and responded positively.
In the year 2017, AMI requested that I go to Samburu and assist a Montessori education initiative which was to start in 2018. The Samburu people live in the Northern part of Kenya. They live a nomadic life and speak the Maa language. I asked Terry, a former Corner of Hope teacher, to come along with me, and she accepted. Two trainees from the Samburu community also started their training at St Ann's Montessori college in 2017.

The Samburu intitiative started with four teachers in 2018. That year, the aim was to introduce Montessori education to different Manyattas. The Manyattas are villages in a conservation area, with no school or health facilities. When we visited a Manyatta we laid our mat on the ground and gave a presentation with some Montessori materials. The parents and children were very interested to see what kind of education we offered.

At first Terry and I had a rough time because we did not know the language, though Tony and Stella, the trained teachers from Samburu, helped in translation. Gradually Terry learned and the language of Maa came to me again since I grew up in Samburu when I was young.

The pilot went on for about two terms. In the third term we got two small tents to place our materials in, though we would still work outside. The tents were placed on two sites, Tintil and Tampheen. We divided ourselves in groups of two teachers per site. The Montessori classrooms were now set up and the children, who before had no opportunity to get education, adapted quickly. Both communities were very happy and responded positively. In the year 2019, we received two big tents and four small tents. The children's house became bigger and we could now work inside as well. Two more trainees joined us. The children had quickly adapted to the Montessori curriculum and came to adore it. Now, many Manyattas are now requesting our school for their children to learn.

In January 2021 the Samburu schools expended and a third site located at Lengusaka was added to the two original sites. The Samburu team now consists of the 2 mentor teachers from Corner of Hope, 5 Samburu teachers, 2 teachers in their attachment year, and another 4 trainees who started their training in January 2021.
Judy with Samburu teachers and former Montessori for Kenya Executive Director Hillary Korir in Samburu, 2020.