Ematsuli and Emanyinya: The Partnership beyond Project Workers

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On Thursday evening the Kakamega Summer Team hosted the principals and deputy principals of Ematsuli and Emanyinya at an EPAfrica Friends Evening at Sheywe Guesthouse. While both schools graduated from our programme in 2015, we were very fortunate to have their respective deputy heads, Josephat and Douglas, attend our annual Head Teachers Conference. Over the course of the day, the pair played an integral role taking a lead in discussions and demonstrating to our new partner schools what could potentially be achieved by the summer’s projects. This week the deputies and their principals, Patrick and Musa, joined us all to share their views on EPAfrica’s investments, and their very unique partnership.

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Our end-of-meal group photo: (Top row L-R) Tom, Patrick, Douglas, Chris (Bottom row) Josephat, Nicole, Musa

During their time at both schools the trio of project workers (PWs) addressed many issues, and one that was particularly highlighted by the management team was their impact on digital learning – the volunteers installed a projector in Emanyinya, and a printer in Ematsuli, an investment that was described as “the beginning of change [at the school]” by their principal Patrick. Although these investments may seem small, the schools had no doubt about their impact, with Douglas telling us that Emanyinya’s projector is now so popular amongst both students and staff that they “cannot cope with [the] demand”.

Alongside these hard investments, both sets of staff really stressed the impact of other, less-tangible benefits of their relationship with EPAfrica. Both Musa and Douglas described how their school had taken note of the PWs’ commitment and dedication – “[it] was more than we had ever seen before!” – as our volunteers spent days backing text books with plastic and trawling through different suppliers to find the best prices. Because these sorts of things are much harder to quantify, their impact is often lost during our monitoring and evaluation, but our conversation really demonstrated how significant they are, as it became evident that the PWs’ example can really contribute to a significant cultural change.

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Tom and Chris were treated to a great lunch with Musa and Douglas, principal and deputy of Emanyinya, during their courtesy call earlier in the summer

Every summer, the success of EPAfrica’s initiatives does not just rest on the PWs, but also relies heavily on the leadership teams at our partner schools. Both Ematsuli and Emanyinya have really embraced this aspect of partnership, and have set the bar for other schools with their impressive expansion on the PWs’ investments. At Emanyinya, for example, since the end of the project they have adopted the PWs’ suggestions of hand-washing stations, a litter collection point, and partitioning the hall to create two new classrooms. Perhaps more significantly, the two schools have worked hard to entrench the partnership that EPAfrica’s trio fostered between them. While teachers at both schools initially seemed sceptical about the scheme, the leadership teams reassured them about the benefits they would reap from the relationship, resulting in many staff members becoming heavily involved in the project.

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Emanyinya Secondary School. In the foreground can be see one of the hand washing stations, implemented by the school post-project, based on an idea given to them by the PWs

This strong exhibition of commitment and leadership does not surprise us, especially after hearing about Josephat’s path to his current position. After dropping out of secondary school, unable to pay fees, the deputy principal worked as a security guard for three years before returning to complete his studies. His story epitomises both schools’ dedication to education and their students.

The bond that both schools now have – having previously only vaguely been aware of each other’s existence – shows the true scale of the impact of the PWs. Their partnership emerged from an EPAfrica football competition between the schools, which has since been christened the “EPACup”. Following the success of this scheme Ematsuli and Emanyinya have expanded on the initiative, introducing a cash prize for the now-annual sports contest – a prize which was this year invested by the victorious Ematsuli in a special lunch and new football kit for their players. Moreover, the schools have expanded the sports competition to include a joint exam, set and marked in tandem by both sets of teachers – a competition which was this year “won” comprehensively by Emanyinya.

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Patrick, principal of Ematsuli, proudly showing off the school’s trophies from the 2016 “EPAcup”

Musa explained how this positive form of competition has allowed both schools to perform better as “Emanyinya sets the pace in exams, [while] Ematsuli sets the pace in sport”, and Patrick agreed that “in the long run, all are improving”. In the future they plan to increase the portfolio of sports and extra-curricular activities that the schools compete in, while Patrick conveyed his belief that the schools are pioneers of a partnership that will take them to new heights, and Musa described how it had “matured into a real learning partnership”.

This relationship is unique in our experience of EPAfrica, and one that we feel ought to set a standard for schools in the future. Through a combination of intelligent EPAfrica investment – both hard and soft – and an inspiring and active leadership team, the schools have managed to hugely improve the quality of education in both of their schools through their partnership. Indeed, the day after our meal, Musa was heading to Ematsuli to observe the school’s Parents’ Day, to see how it was conducted and how Emanyinya could do something similar. We can only hope that the two schools continue to come to the Head Teachers’ Conference in the years to come, setting such a great example through their ongoing partnership with the charity, and with each other.

Tom was a Project Worker in 2012, and is the Summer 2016 Project Manager in Kakamega.