John Mugo, Twaweza, East Africa, Kenya
It is November 2007 and I just came back from a lecture at Kenyatta University in Nairobi. Sara is waiting for me. Over coffee, she tells me, “There is this thing that we should go and see in India. I hear they are doing some great work involving citizens to improve education, may have potential for East Africa. A certain man, Rakesh Rajani in Tanzania has invited me to go along and check it out”. The following year, I meet Dana Schmidt, and later,Lynn Murphy, both from the Hewlett Foundation. The Annual Status of Education Report, ASER, gives birth to Uwezo in East Africa. March 2009, I join the bandwagon – pilot, train, pilot again. We assess childrenfor the first time in September 2009. It was an amazing experience, sitting and listening to children read, watching them solve that one last math problem – and – that gaze on their parents’ face! In January 2011, I quit the university to join Uwezo full-time, and life has never been the same again.
Since then, I have visited unaccounted villages and accessed numerous children across East Africa. From Turkana to Lamu, from Kalangala to Mbarara, from Mwanza to Mtwara – with so many friends – lost in the lecture room of East Africa’s education. The refreshing oscillation between that long walk in the village, the enriching conversation with parents, local leaders, teachers – “Hey you, what is this Uwezo all about?” – and walking again to assess in the next household, before the sun sets. And under the bright moonlight in forgotten villages, feet aching, sitting, talking and reflecting about the fate of Africa’s education. Then following week, briefing the government on the status of education, and arguing that all children must be taken along, because, it is learning and not schooling that matters.
Now come, its already morning. Let’s hurry up and assess the next child, and tell the next learning story. Come!