Ruben Centre . by Anne Fillmore of Seattle
- Published: Monday, 23 October 2017 12:09
Having recently returned from a week volunteering at the Ruben Centre, the first thing I hear myself saying to people who ask about it is, “It is the most amazing place I have ever experienced.” I nine full days in Nairobi, and am forever changed by the reality and suffering, and yet, the hope witnessed at the Ruben Centre and surrounding slum.
My task at the Ruben Primary School was to work specifically with the Grade 4 teachers, and a few other highly motivated teachers, on the problem of non-readers or ‘slow learners,’ as they are called. Indeed, the education system is different in many ways in Kenya, both institutionally and culturally, and the reality of 70+ children in a class with no resources other than a chalkboard and composition books, creates a huge barrier to addressing special education needs. On Monday, the teacher sent me the 30 lowest readers: 10 year olds, ½ of who could recite the alphabet but not identify individual letters, and ½ who could decode basic one syllable words, but had no comprehension of their meaning. By the end of the day I had created a 5 step, 10 minute (very basic!) assessment using materials at the school for teachers to ‘screen’ students and at least divide them into different categories of need (ie, phonics, decoding, or comprehension). The remainder of the week was spent working with these groups and creating long term plans to improve their reading. I also modeled different reading-instruction strategies (like how to appropriately preview, read aloud, predict, question, and test comprehension of a book for the whole class). In an educational atmosphere where excitement and enthusiasm is not the norm, my very theatrical and involved readings of The Ugly Duckling, Three Little Pigs, and other stories was very entertaining for the students, and teachers, indeed!