2. What has changed in Corner of Hope since you first set foot in the school?
CoH has seen remarkable changes since the first time I set foot in the school in 2014. The premises greatly improved starting with simple things such as staff room furniture, kitchen shelves and better maintained shamba, to more prominent changes such as the compound wall, name board, greenery around the compound, and the material repair room. Of course, the most interesting change is the materials in the classrooms themselves. As the teachers trained and engaged more, they started bringing in more creativity and fun into their classrooms. There were more art and craft activities available to the children and paintings and handmade plastic bottle installations hanging on the walls. The environment feels warm, welcoming and full of excitement, fun and learning.
The extension of the school into Njoro and the addition of the elementary classroom were also significant. What started as a small school literally at the corner of a small IDP settlement has grown to become the cornerstone of the community offering Montessori primary and elementary education.
Another significant change I witnessed is in the teachers. It was such a privilege and a great learning experience for me to see how the teachers, strong men and women who were at first unsure of themselves and their work, slowly understood the greatness of the work they were doing, gained confidence in themselves and started to feel confident and proud of their work. Whether it was speaking up and speaking louder, or, more importantly, expressing an opinion about what needs to be done, how and why. It was wonderful to see them taking ownership of their space and work. The school had no dearth of local, national and international visitors and while visitors used to be accompanied by the local project coordinator in the beginning, the teachers are now happy and confident to host visitors independently, explain the teaching and methodology and answer all questions without hesitation.
Finally, the community itself changed the way it perceived the school. There was always pride in the school that they built themselves, from the ground up, brick by brick, but the sentiment grew to include a genuine understanding of what the school actually means to them. They are even more invested in maintaining it as a safe space for their children and contribute to it in a variety of ways: helping dye the cloth for the uniforms, weaving sweaters, allocating space where needed, offering vegetables for the children's lunches, cleaning the play areas, and even bringing the children in on school holidays when we have visitors!
It would be remiss of me not to mention the growth and changes on the teacher training side of things. Staff development took an important step up when some teachers and trainers were the first from the initiative to join an AMI 3-6 International Diploma and one of the trainers joined the AMI 0-3 International Diploma. A few other teachers also completed the first national level Montessori 6-12 teacher training course. The up-skilling programme contributed significantly to the quality of teaching and training at the college and the school.
3. What has stayed the same?
The Montessori inspired ethos of the project as a whole and its commitment to the community has never wavered.