The Race of PACE

“ My name is Doris; delightful Doris.” These alliterated introductions have become a sort of tradition in kicking off the training of PACE volunteers. This year, it was no different at Parklands Baptist Church. Excited, energy filled individuals gathered at the Church’s mother room on Monday, January 12th- volunteers, and the friendly interactive members of the PACE team: the founder of the organization, Peggy Walenda Mativo, the Program Co-ordinator, Doris Kiogora and the Teaching Assistant Co-ordinator, David Mwaura.

Fun was definitely part of the agenda during the week long training- from the “Rabbit, Wall and Arrow” game (a derivation of rock-paper-scissors meant for a crowd), to movie charades, to the thread game, there was a buzz of activity and animation in the air, thus lending more evidence to the PACE’s long built a reputation of being a friendly organization that has an intimate relationship with all its members.
Having said that, all play and no work makes Jack an unproductive boy. The sessions held were eye opening, informative and intense. Susan Awuoko instructed volunteers on theories of child development including Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, Ivan Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning and constructivist learning approaches. Seems like heavy stuff for Form 4 leavers? Well, that’s just the kind of thorough preparation that the volunteers have before they tackle a task as critical and important as supporting education for other young people. Through understanding how children learn, the volunteers are now able to understand the different behaviors displayed by their students and take necessary, helpful steps instead of making incorrect assumptions.

Only an organized teacher can be successful in his/her work. This is why the session on lesson planning was essential; the volunteers, for the first time in their lives, became the ones writing lesson plans rather than benefiting from them. A 40-minute lesson was broken down into schemes of work- the topics, sub-topics, learning activities, resources available, and the final self-evaluation by the teacher. Now you know that your Primary and High School teachers did not just improvise through the classes- there was a lot of careful preparation involved. By the end of this session, the volunteers were organization mini-experts; a skill that always comes in handy regardless of the situation.
We learnt from successes, failures and challenges of those who came before us. Sarah Kago, Mildred Sakina, Collins Oluoch, James Njamura and David Mwaura, volunteers from the 2014 class, graciously availed themselves at the training for one of the most interactive sessions of the week; the Q and A. They gave the incoming teaching assistants first hand information on what it’s like to work with a class, to strengthen the discipline of students, to mark homework, to prepare charts and other such resource materials, and to mentor and guide the students by being good role models. Having served in different primary schools, each had a unique story to tell. One thing that was similar to all was the conviction that the PACE experience is life changing. They would do it all over again, if given a chance to.

Teachers are leaders in disguise. Peggy Mativo, the founder of PACE and a Harvard Alumni, is a testament to this. Having taught in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, she’s had multiple opportunities to engage with teachers from all walks, and learn how the students’ lots in life would sink or rise with their teachers’ leadership. Naturally, she would be best suited to take the team through the Leadership and Motivation session, which covered aspects of how to be an inspirational role model and mentor. Values such as perseverance, dedication, responsibility, genuine concern for others and assertiveness were just some of the topics discussed, in relation to the teaching profession. The aspect of long-term mentorship was emphasized in line with PACE’s goal of bringing up a generation of innovative, passionate and visionary leaders in the students. As leaders, the volunteers would also be expected to clearly understand, and maintain, boundaries with the students and faculty, and to conduct themselves with proper decorum. Volunteers would be like big siblings to the younger students who desperately need someone to guide them and look up to.

Theory must always be balanced out with practice. During the teach backs (mock lessons), the volunteers were able to assess their teaching abilities, note down their short-comings and strengths, and receive advice from the team and the volunteers on how to improve on their method of instruction. To spice things up, the mock students (volunteers) were asked to present typical unruly classroom situations- sleeping children, whispering students, cheeky answers to the teacher’s questions and lack of co-operation. Needless to say, this led to a very amusing, informative and paradigm-shifting session. By the end of this, the volunteers were armed with realistic expectations of their coming experience in the schools, and equipped with the proper tools to tackle them.
Perhaps the most interesting session was when the volunteers listened to those they would be assisting. Mrs Muchiri from North Highridge, and Mrs Maingi from Farasi Lane Primary School, offered to give their time to come address the teaching assistants in waiting. They gave a warm welcome to the profession, wished them well in the schools they would be posted in, and advised them to be diligent and committed to their work, because it would not be all sunshine and roses; they would face difficult, disillusioning situations that they would have to muster the courage to overcome. Finally ending with their witty, informative remarks on their own experiences as teachers, they capped the highly fulfilling week of training.

By Thursday, the 2015 PACE volunteers had established new friendships, learnt new concepts and enjoyed themselves thoroughly. They could not be more prepared to go forth into the land and spread quality education to students in dire need of it. So even as PACE celebrated its 2nd year since its inception, on Thursday, January 15th, with cake, song and dance, we know that this is only the beginning of the race, and we look forward to a successful continuation and victorious finish. How about you? Why don’t you come join the race of PACE?