Wednesday, December 9, 2009

VJS Students participate in World AIDS Day!

The East African Center’s Nurse, Community Health Workers, Health Education team, and teachers participated in two AIDS awareness days this week, in celebration of World AIDS Day this year.

On the 1st of December, the EAC participated in a district-wide World AIDS Day celebration in Chonyi, a very rural area in Kilifi District that does not have adequate healthcare coverage. The EAC partnered with the Ministry of Health, Red Cross, USAID, Scope, and many other local organizations to hold a celebration filled with speeches, music, dance, and drama at the District Officer’s compound in Chonyi village. The day began with a large procession filled with drums and signs, bringing many local residents to the site of the celebration. At the event, Vutakaka Junior School’s (VJS) students performed a play about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. There were testing stations set up to test for HIV/AIDS and speeches by people living with HIV/AIDS. Everyone in attendance agreed it was a wonderful, informative day!

On Friday the 4th of December, the EAC held our own AIDS awareness day to bring the information and testing specifically to Takaungu. The Vutakaka Community Center was filled with balloons and informative signs, and music was provided by a local DJ. The day included speeches, a drama by the VJS students, a dance by the adult education class, and a quiz with prizes at the end of the day.

Our Head Nurse, Valerian (far right), and his assistants tested 55 individuals throughout the day, and all in attendance received information about HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, and treatment. The day was an enormous success, and the EAC is extremely proud of the staff for working so hard to pull it off. Thanks to Krystle Dowling for a great job organizing the day!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Term 2 Exam Scores and School Rankings

Below are the rankings and the average scores for the schools in the Shariani school zone which covers the northeast portion of coastal Kenya. As you can see, Vutakaka typically ranks in 1st among the over 25 schools and scores are often twice as good as the local Takaungu Primary School.

Standard 1:

1. Vutakaka Junior School - 440.60
2. Shariani Academy - 414.71
3. Baharini Primary - 352.75
17. Takaungu Primary - 264.86

  • Neema Yaa - 477
  • Esther Mwangombe - 475
  • Nelly Rongoma - 472

Standard 2:

1. Vutakaka Junior School - 380.28
2. Kadzinuni Primary - 325.70
3. Takaungu Primary - 318.18

  • Ghalib Twaha - 490
  • Saumu Katana - 483
  • Moza Twalib - 483
  • Khamis Answar - 480

Standard 3:

1. Vutakaka Junior School - 369.36
2. Majajani Primary - 345.85
3. In His Grace Academy - 333.41
24. Takaungu Primary - 221.34

  • Josephine Safari - 480
  • Fatma Aboud - 474
  • Abubakar Ahmed - 474
  • Dominic Chai - 470

Standard 4:

1. In His Grace Academy - 298.34
2. Vutakaka Junior School - 283.86
3. Mtomondoni Primary - 250.51
22. Takaungu Primary - 181.85
The scores for this class were lower across the board because the Ministry of Education changed the exams this year. There was a disconnect within all schools between what they were teaching and what was to be required of them on exam day. We are working to ensure that our students improve for the next exam in December!

  • Albert Masha - 389
  • Aisha Mohamed - 377
  • Said Aly - 371

Standard 5:

1. Vutakaka Junior School - 307.30
2. In His Grace Academy - 305
3. Baharini Primary - 264.25
21. Takaungu Primary - 216.59

  • Ibrahim Ramadhan - 435
  • Mohamed Aboud - 418
  • Najash Fauz - 405

Top KG Students:

KG1, Average - 388

  • Duri Ahmed - 495
  • Amina Al-Amin - 493
  • Nabahan Rashid - 492

KG2, Average - 439

  • Ilifatt Jamal - 494
    Grace Baya - 494
    Athman Juma - 493
    Ahmed Hussein - 491

KG3, Average - 432

  • Lilian Ngala - 499
  • Nancy Daniel - 487
  • Lilian Kenga - 485

Monday, July 20, 2009

Letter from the Head of School

Greetings to you all from Takaungu! I would like to first take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for the support you offer to our school. Vutakaka Junior School is excelling academically, and that is our greatest achievement for the children of Takaungu and the surrounding villages. The results speak for themselves. At the end of Term 1, we placed 2nd and 3rd in the zone from the grades that we offer, classes 1 through 5. We have managed to improve during this term. As of the second mid-term exam, we are 1st place in our zone for grades 1-3 and 5, and 2nd place in the zone for grade 4. We are so proud of our students and teachers for working so hard to be on top!

This level of academic achievement has only been possible because of support from our sponsors. The ability to provide our students with textbooks and other reading materials, as well as to create a supportive environment for our teachers and staff has been crucial in reaching our goals.

In Term 2, we were given the gift of technology through a grant of 100 XO laptops. In my first letter of the year, I said that we were aspiring to train our pupils in modern technology. This is now a ‘dream come true.’ Our pupils are learning fabulous new things with their laptops and we believe this will bring their performance and their futures to greater heights. I appreciate the collective efforts involved in introducing our students to the XO laptops, and want to thank everyone involved in making this happen.

We are still running the various clubs at our school, and these help to nurture the students’ natural talents and abilities. Students are exposed to new activities and social environments through the garden club, the drama club, and the debate club, to name a few. Our sports teams also continue to help students develop. This term, we took our girls football team to a competition in collaboration with Moving the Goalpost, an organization dedicated to providing girls with the opportunity to play football. The greatest challenge for our sports program is the procurement of sports attire. The families of our students cannot afford uniforms, and our students are forced to play in their school uniforms. In the future, we hope for donations of or assistance in purchasing uniforms for girls football, boys football, basketball, and volleyball.

Despite all of our achievements, there are still challenges faced.
If efforts can be made to overcome some of these challenges, Vutakaka Junior School (VSJ) can continue to be such a top school. Our biggest need now is support for infrastructure. VJS is growing every year, and we want to make sure we can offer our oldest students a place each year in the future. We need to build more classrooms, toilets, offices, and storage space at the EAC’s primary school property. Our lunch program is one of the most costly but important parts of our school. Every day, students who would otherwise not eat lunch are given a nutritious meal. We need your continued support to make sure our students are well nourished each day and ready to learn.

Again, I want to thank you all for the support you have already given, and the support you will give us going forward. This school is changing the lives of the students and their families in the Takaungu sub-location, and we must continue to provide this important service to this community. I welcome you all to come to Kenya and visit us and see the school in action for yourselves.

Best Regards,
Catherine Munga
Head Teacher
Vutakaka Junior School

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 1 with the XOs!

We gave the XOs out to both class 4 and 5. All Priyanka could get through in the class time for each class was rule coverage, recording which kid has which laptop by taking the batteries out and writing the barcode number, turning on the computers (choosing color and writing name), using the mouse, opening the calculate function, doing some small calculations, and then shutting down. The kids were really excited!

We had been using the new classroom for Std 3. We decided yesterday that we would covert it back to a computer lab for the rest of the year. The 12 benches and tables will go in, and we brought a huge locking cabinet over from Vutakaka that the kids will lock their laptops in at the end of the classes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The new Junior School classroom!

Each year, we add another grade to our school to ensure that the students that have been with us from the beginning can stay with us until high school. Currently, we have KG1 through STD6 by 2011, we will go all the way through STD8 (which is similar to 8th grade in the States).

With the grant we received this year from OLPC, we were able to build one more classroom. This classrooms are set up for the use of the computers and will allow us to accept even more students to the school! By the end of the month, we will have electricity wired to these buildings!

As he second term of the year winds down, students are getting excited about the new XO laptops! The third term, beginning in September, will prove to be an exciting one for the school with new classrooms, 100 laptops, and electricity!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Takungu community meets their XOs!

Today, the XOs were introduced to the Standard 4 and 5 classes and their parents! The meeting was a huge success and everyone is very excited about the program. There have been 5 teacher trainings so far and 2 teacher meetings about the laptops. The teachers have learned the following programs: chat, speak, write, Tam-tam mini, scratch, distance, etoys, memorize, and record.

Bryan is going to spend the day setting up the server and the computers at the school. He is going to train Omar (the Standard 5 teacher) in the tech side of things, so that if problems arise in the future, Omar should be able to work out the kinks. The deployment to the students is happening Monday (standard 4) and Tuesday (standard 5). Unfortunately, we will be using the generator to charge the computers initially as the electricity is still not connected.

The remaining computers will be given to the current Standard 3 class next year (thereby covering 4-6). Priyanka is going to make a spreadsheet to record which computer is given to each student. Even though the laptops won't go home with the kids, ownership is still important. We met with some visitors from OLPC last week. They feel very strongly about sending the computers home with the students, but Priyanka, Bryan, and I think that cannot happen until next year at the earliest. We feel that it is pretty much a fact that the computers will last for a shorter amount of time if they go home with the kids, but we are willing to pilot it next year.

Priyanka has been working hard with the teachers to develop lesson plans for Term 3 using the XOs in Science, English, Math, and Social Studies. Breona and Jen, back in the States, will add to the lesson plans and help support them by caching websites to help support the lessons.
For the rest of Term 2, the students will be learning the laptops during one PE class per week and two Creative Arts classes per week. There will also be optional after school hours four days a week (two for Standar 4 and two for Standard 5). During the school break, the students will have the first week off, and will resume studies with the computers the second week of break.

Because of Madrasa everyday during break but Thursday and Friday, students will come in August 13 and 14, August 20 and 21, and starting on August 24th, Madrasa takes a break and they can come every day until school opens on the 7th of September if that schedule suits everyone involved. This gives the students and teachers a lot of time during break with the computers.

The teachers involved will be Anita, the computer teacher, and Saade, who has been on leave and agreed to work in August to make up for time lost. She will train on the computers and will be able to assist Anita. Other teachers are welcome to come in during the break but are not required to.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Term 1 update

Vutakaka school teachers have reported on the progress of each of the classes after the first semester of 2009.

KG1 - Madam Kimolo worked with the KG1 students on the basics; counting and writing numbers and letters, talking about pictures, and practicing their English. They learned the parts of the body, names of domestic animals and fruits and about different things in their environment. Margaret said of the challenges they faced this semester, "Some children were very young and are fresh from home and therefore had trouble concentrating in a school environment. I helped them by having a lot of singing and poem recitation to make them gain interest in school. Many of the children could not hold pencils well so I helped them by doing a lot of coloring and scribbling to strengthen their finger muscles."

KG2 - Students in KG2 practiced spelling and dictating words focusing on 3 letter words and vowels and began adding and subtracting. Malemba Mwadime helped them practice their English "by learning the Kenyan flag and its colors, utensils, domestic animals, parts of the plant, parts of the body, wild animals, and the types of weather." Malemba used visuals to help students make the connection between numbers and values. By the end of the semester, students were better able to draw pictures from imagination or their memory.

KG3 - Madam Faith had students in KG3 counting from 1 to 100 in English, adding and subtracting in the double digits, and praticing the tough sounds like ch, th, and sh. Students in this grade began being able to read entire books and to develop their handwriting.

STD1 - STD1, which is similar to 3rd grade in the US, is the first class at Vutakaka Junior School. Here students begin to rotate through different subjects such as science and social studies. Charts and photographs line the classroom that help remind students of what they learned in the primary school and to help them transition to the new subjects and syllabi.

STD2 - Saade found that STD2 students began enjoying class more throughout the semester as the courses are becoming more creative at this level. Their discipline and focus has improved as well as their energy due to the physical exercise they are getting each day at the school. This grade incorporates more life skills into lessons, such as problem solving, health, and enviromental education. Saade attributes this to their higher interest and performance levels, as well as self-esteem, at this grade.

STD3 - Teacher Joseph helped students become fluent in Kiswahli and English and to prepare them for the upper level classes they would be taking the next year. He used lesson plans to create awareness of the challenges
ges students face in day to day life. Joseph stressed the importance of independant reading skills throughout the semester.

STD4 - STD4 is the first class of upper primary and the first year that students attend school until 3:30pm everyday. Science classes are facilitiated with more experiments and social and religious students (required to be taught by the state) become more advanced. Madam Mary found students becoming even more engaged and creative at this level.

STD5 - Preparing for State exams is a major focus of this grade and STD5 students learned the value of reaching out to teachers, peers and parents to assist in their studies. Students at Vutakaka received the highest scores in the district and were awarded for this by the state last month!

Top Students of Term 1 2009

KG1 - Amina Al-Amin, Grace Baya, and Nabahan Rashid

- Reuben Mumba (right), Linet Karisa, and Khamis Ali

KG3 - Lilian Ngala, Nancy Daniel, and Mohammed Ali

STD1 - Robert Mumbo, Musa Unda, Lilian Moses, and Samuel Kalama

STD2 - George Katana, Moza Twalib, Baraka Kaingu and Saumu Katana

STD3 - Jospehine Safari, Mary Emmanuel, and Lucky Chai

STD4 - Albert Masha, Aisha Mohamed, and Rehema Kenga

STD5 - Ibrahim Ramadhan, Muttaqina Salim, and Mohammad Aboud

Friday, May 8, 2009

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) awarded for Vutakaka!

A team of graduate students, Breona, Emma and Cecila from the University of Washington, and Jen, Priyanka and Bryan from the New School, have been awarded a grant from One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)! Some of the team will participate in training in Rwanda with other groups that have been awarded this grant and then will depart for Takaungu with 100 laptops for the Vutakaka students! This is an amazing achievement and we are so grateful to be able to inroduce this new type of knowledge and skill to the VSJ students!

OLPC's mission is "to create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. When children have access to this type of tool they get engaged in their own education. They learn, share, create, and collaborate. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future."

We will continue to update you as the program is designed and implemented! We hope to have the students contributing to this blog and possibly creating one of their own! In the meantime, please take a moment to learn more about the OLPC and the amazing work they are doing all over the world!

Congrats and thank you to team who has worked so hard on this grant and project!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stay Alive Competition

The first annual Stay Alive Inter-School Competition was held at Vutakaka Junior School on March 20th, 2009. Stay Alive is an EAC sponsored HIV/AIDS education program. With four participating schools, more than 250 students aged 9-14 receive classes on HIV/AIDS through the Stay Alive program. Head CHW Mohamed Said and Standard 1 class teacher Saade Mohamed are the faculty coordinators for the Stay Alive group and led the team in the annual inter-school Stay Alive competition!

Vutakaka Junior School hosted the festivities. In attendance were students from Vutakaka, Mkwajuni Primary School, and Takaungu Primary School. Unfortunately, Vuma Primary School were unprepared for the event and therefore did not compete. Students from the surrounding schools met at Vutakaka at 9am along with our experienced adjudicator Mr. Chirou and our guest of honor, EAC-Kenya board member George Odhiambo.

In preparation for the competition, the students practiced their own songs, poems, and skits about HIV/AIDS, drug and alcohol use, and the rights of children. The day began with the three schools delivering poems and songs, and ended with some informative, hilarious and thoughtful skits. Performances were done by individuals and groups that demonstrated their understanding of the importance of these issues in their lives.

Mkwajuni Primary School had one of the funniest skits. Though Vutakaka Junior School was well prepared and used great props, Takaungu Junior School was judged the 2009 Stay Alive winner. They received the Stay Alive trophy, which they will hold until next year’s competition. The day ended with juice and snacks for the students, and a lunch for all the participating teachers and distinguished guests. Takaungu Primary School students walked home singing and holding their trophy high.

While the EAC’s own Vutakaka students were upset at receiving 2nd place, they vowed to work hard throughout the year preparing for next year's competition! We were honored to host the local schools and are looking for more ways to bring together the students and faculty and to support the public school system.

1. Stay Alive students waiting for event to begin
2. EAC faculty Stay Alive team with trophy
3. Vutakaka Girl Guide performs a poem
4. Takaungu students song and dance
5. Mkwajuni students first skit

Friday, February 13, 2009

Letter from the Head Teacher

Dear Partners,

Greetings to you all! I hope this letter finds you all well. Vutakaka Junior School is progressing very well in its 8th year of operation. The school has two sub-sections – with three Kindergarten classes and five Primary School classes. Currently, we have 227 pupils enrolled, with 114 boys and 113 girls. Despite some recent staff changes, we are moving into 2009 with a very competent teaching and supervising staff.

Vutakaka Junior School (VJS) engages its pupils in both curricular and co-curricular activities. Academically, the pupils are exposed to a quality education, which is shown in our school’s performance (the majority of our students score above 80% repeatedly a significantly higher percentage than any of the public schools in Kenya). VJS is currently one of the top schools in the Kilifi District.

Every year we add more activities for the students outside the classroom. This year, sports are a huge part of our program with students regularly competing in basketball, football, volleyball, and netball for both boys and girls. With these activities, our students are well nurtured physically and are improving their talents. The students are also engaged in a number of clubs including a gardening club, a debate club, a drama club, and a Girl Guides unit (like Girl Scouts). These clubs help students become more comfortable expressing themselves in a crowd, and give them the opportunity to pursue hobbies they are interested in.

Because of your support, our students come to school prepared, with their minds on education. This year, every student has received a new uniform, and will soon get a new school bag. We also provided every student with all the exercise books, pencils, and erasers that they would need. This alleviates a lot of worry that the families and the students have when preparing for school, and allows students to focus all their energy on excelling in class. The free lunch and porridge programs also provide valuable support to students and their families. Students are not able to focus if they have not had a proper mid-day meal, and for some students, our lunch is the only good quality, nutritious meal that they receive all day.

In conjunction with our health department, our students are provided with life skills training, and HIV/AIDS awareness. At last years closing day, the HIV/AIDS awareness class adapted a popular Swahili dance song to share their knowledge with parents and staff about abstinence and HIV/AIDS awareness.

Our students also get to go on a field trip every year. For many students, this is the only time they get to leave the Takaungu sub-location. Last year, the students went to Malindi, an international city about an hour north of Takaungu. They learned about Vasco de Gama’s exploration of the Kenyan Coast, visited a coastal cultural museum, and ate a picnic lunch at the beach.

We are still a young school, but our students and staff have big dreams for the future. Some include teaching foreign language classes, educating our students in how to use a computer and the internet, and expanding to include a secondary school.

All of the students, teachers, and staff at VJS greatly appreciate your support for the 2009 school year. We wish you a prosperous and happy 2009!


Catherine Munga

Head Teacher