My name is Isabella, but I became known as Miss Bella by the kindergarten students at Nairobi International School Kindergarten for the duration of my volunteer work there. When I came to Nairobi, I wanted to experience the cultural and situational differences this place had to offer that were contrasting to my home country, Australia, and my kindergarten schooling in Hong Kong. This experience has been part of my career research trip in East Africa since graduating with a Bachelors degree in Development Studies focusing on third world development and its challenges. Everywhere I travel, I try to be involved with children in some way whether it is on vacation or for work because I feel the connection that one can create with the children of a country is a lesson of the place that is so unlike any other perspective. I strongly believe that education is the best way to change the world and ignite a spark in the hearts of young people. If I could make such a small difference to only a few of these children then both our lives and communities would be better for it.
When I was given the chance to work with Nairobi International School I could not believe it, I was overwhelmed with joy. I had never seen a school so creatively decorated with themed rooms and bright paint, it was tidy and organised, and I was greeted with huge smiles from everyone while I waited for my orientation. The first person I met was Miss Adamjee, the School Head, and from the first day she never wavered in my opinion of her, she is everything you can hope for in a leader, a role model and a strong female figure in the lives of these children. I thought the strong character, generosity and kind-heartedness of the School Head could only mean the same for the teachers and the rest of the staff, to which I later realised such was true. After a week passed, I noticed a routine segment every morning where the teachers used repetition to cement core knowledge in the minds of their youngsters. In my kindergarten, we had repetition though I never remembered it being so fun, to the point that the children looked forward to being able to show off their knowledge and have a go even if they were not sure. This is a true testament to the teachers at Nairobi International School Kindergarten, they begin the day with shy (sometimes half asleep) children and by the time the lessons started the children are excited, confident and striving to do their best.
The children here receive a well-rounded education with classes in music, art, literacy, numeracy, creative writing, physical activities, and computer lessons. I also received a wellrounded education, though I remember my lessons to be quite strict and sternly structured. At Nairobi International School Kindergarten, the children are given instruction to which they follow with their own element of individual creativity, this is something I really admire. None of the children feel pressured to perform a certain way, they are purely encouraged to be themselves and try their hardest; to play games they like, to use colours they like, to design their art as they like, and share the stories they like with the class at news time. Miss Obura and Miss Anne really foster the individual development of each and every child by allowing them to have creative freedom to be themselves. The time these two ladies spend planning, preparing and exciting the children about learning was something special to be a part of. Everything these teachers do is for the benefit of their children and their individual strengths and challenges. As a result of the school environment and the people around them, every one of these students are so friendly, polite and eager to learn which made it a pleasure to go to the school each day to assist them to be their best selves.
Nairobi International School has taught me so much during my term with them and has helped me to grow and learn about the culture of Nairobi, the society, its children, and myself. It is hard to find the words that give justice to the experience and everything I gained from working with the staff and students there. This volunteer experience is perfect for beginner teachers or humanitarians who have a huge passion for learning from and with the children you interact with every day. The support and assistance given to you by the school is incomparable to anything I have felt before in such a capacity. In addition to learning from these youngsters, the teachers and staff at the school shed a light on other aspects of society and life in Nairobi that I would not have been able to gain insight to anywhere else. Their fun, dynamic, exciting personalities always made me feel welcome and at ease with my involvement, in a careful balance to their professionalism and care for their students. This mix of fun and care had a visible and rewarding impact on the children who arrived shy and left feeling confident in themselves and happy every day. The school and the people involved have made a safe space for young children to learn and be themselves, and that is something truly special to find.
In the end, this has been an experience I will never forget with people I can call my friends for life. I have learnt new and diverse ways of teaching and interacting with children that are fun and leave them wanting to come back to school to learn some more, something I never had at that age. The whole experience has exceeded my expectations and has been the best time spent in my professional career research journey thus far. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to learn from you all and develop myself in this profession. I wish you all the best for the future of the school and the best wishes for all the children.
Warm Regards and see you next time,