Saturday, April 18, 2015

Finding the Calvin Within

As a qualitative rather than quantitative person, I am often at a loss when it comes to expressing just how Toa Nafasi is making an impact on an unemotional and practical level.

I can very easily get excited about the Project and jabber on at great and non-sequential lengths about discoveries made from children's drawings which have led us to critical breakthroughs in their emotional and psychological states, or probable influences in their backgrounds or home lives which have contributed to their intellectual or academic situations.

But I am not a number-cruncher nor a graph-maker, I do not manipulate data nor do I know the technical terms associated with the collection, analysis, and presentation of such information.

Therefore, disclaimer clearly stated, I present to you now in its most fundamental form, an example of the positive impact that I believe Toa Nafasi is having on the slow-learning children in the Standard One classroom at Msaranga Primary School.

Check below some pages from the assessment done in August 2014 on a young gentleman named Calvin.

You can see here Calvin's very limited ability to identify basic syllables and numbers.

Obviously, without a mastery of syllables, he cannot read simple words.

Doesn't know his shapes or colors.

Without being able to identify numbers correctly, Calvin certainly cannot be expected to solve even the most basic math problems.
When he was asked to write easy Swahili words - baba, mama, etc. - Calvin failed to do so since again, he has not yet mastered the syllables involved in building them.

Shortly after testing, we enrolled young Calvin in our tuition program and Vumi and the crew set about getting him up-to-speed by working with him Toa Nafasi-style: individually and/or in small groups a half-hour out of each regular school day and then returning him to the normal Standard Once classroom for the rest of his lessons.

Fast-forward to March 2015, seven months later....

Calvin's got all but one syllable identified and every number.

He aced all the simple words and got halfsies on the more complex ones.

Colors and shapes?  No problem!!

Not only has the kid got his number identification downpat, he's also figured out strategies for completing simple arithmetic problems.

Okay, so he didn't score 100% on the new exam but he did leaps and bounds better than he did on the first try, even being able to write a few simple Swahili words from memory, not copying from the board!!

Now, since I freely admit my limitations as a researcher and analyst, so I can't say by what percentage he improved or what it means for the others in his cohort or any fancy lingo like that.  But what I can say, and what I know for sure, is that without this program, Calvin would never have gotten the opportunity to make these advances much less succeeded at them.
The chaos of the regular classroom, the shortcomings of the system, the overall environment of a developing nation do not provide a catchment for those most vulnerable amongst us.
I am extremely proud and exceptionally gratified to be part of this Project that does offer an alternative.  And, I am so appreciative of the rest of the team and the part that each individual plays - and don't worry, there is a graph-maker on staff!

A luta continua!!

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