Noel Tiyoy, a German language teacher at the M-PESA Foundation Academy in Kenya, has what she calls an experiential teaching style.
You’ll often find her teaching her classes outside, under a tree or by the swimming pool. And instead of standing at the front of the class giving lectures, she likes to get her students dancing to music or engaging in debate.
“I love a talking class!” Noel enthuses. “The teacher does not have to be at the centre of the classroom. You can be the guide at the side.”
She even likes to flip the student-teacher dynamic. “Sometimes I ask my students: how do you feel you will learn best today? It’s about enjoyment. Through enjoyment, students will realise what they really want to do.”
Her students felt the benefits of this recently, when Noel taught them about Oktoberfest, a German festival. “They were coming up with their own ideas and my job was just to support them,” she says, lighting up with pride as she remembers it.
The M-PESA Foundation Academy is a state-of-the-art, residential high school serving nearly 500 students from a diverse range of backgrounds. The school is supported by the M-PESA Foundation, an independent charitable trust funded by proceeds from M-PESA, Vodafone and Safaricom’s mobile money platform.
Students arrive at the M-PESA Foundation Academy on full scholarships and can study International Baccalaureate programmes. They have smart devices and high-speed connectivity to support their learning and are given digital skills training.
“Technology has made learning more interesting,” Noel says. “So that it’s not just the teacher disseminating the information. The students are given the environment to also teach us. And that’s sparked something in them.”
For Noel, it’s all about giving students the space to do their own research and discover things for themselves. She thinks it’s the beginning of a more inclusive future for education - not just in Kenya, but globally. But she also knows that, to continue improving access to education, we need to step up and take notice of the children who are being left behind.
“Life has a way of favouring those who have access,” she says. “Governments need to go into classrooms and identify students who need their help. Otherwise, the disparity between rich and poor will continue to grow.”
Teachers at the Academy are passionate about creating global leaders. They encourage them to go to university, whether in Kenya or abroad, and instill a sense of global citizenship in them in the hope that they will return to their villages to make a difference.
“We hope our alumni will demonstrate what the Academy has imparted to them - the leadership, the excellence, the responsibility," Noel explains. “So they can give back to society in their own different ways.”
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