Power of affirmation
Yesterday I was struck in the most amazing way on the power of affirmation. This came from pupils from Mang’u Primary School where I schooled many years ago. The inspiration to start the ‘Dare to Dream mentors’ was this same school. I felt that something is missing as far as school's academic performance is concerned. At the time that I schooled in this school, we had kids going to national schools, and during my year we set a record where four girls were admitted to national schools while many other pupils were admitted to provincial level schools following excellent performance in the
Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams. In Kenya, the admission to schools is based on performance in the region, hence the quota system. In the recent years, the school and many other schools in the locality have been performing poorly barely getting any children admitted to secondary schools! I felt this strong urge to go back to the school and the dream was realized in April 2010 when we had our first mentorship forum.
Since then, with support of friends, we have been carrying out mentorship forums where we engage on life skills with pupils in class seven and eight in the school. The sessions have been inspiring for both the mentors and the mentees. We have focused on various issues around growing up, skills in academics/ study skills, relationships, setting goals, self awareness and self esteem among others. We hold the sessions monthly. Every day that we get to interact with the young one is a lesson learnt for us. I believe that as the children get a safe space to discuss these life issues it will not only impact on their academic performance but also on their life skills outside the education system. Sharing and encouraging words from the friends involved in mentoring these pupils has been greatly appreciated by the pupils and the teachers.
One of the key highlights is the annual prize giving where we award the best pupils as a way of affirming and motivating them. We have held two successful prize giving forums which have played a great role in motivating the children. Apart from the best performers in class six, seven and eight, we also award other categories of pupils. These are best in sports, discipline and neatest pupils. In August 2011 we had a prize giving day that was quite a success. In the process of doing this, we wondered what other motivation we could come up with for the class eight candidates as they prepared for the final exams.
After brief consultations, we promised them that those who will have improved by 40 marks in the October (mocks) exams would be rewarded. As we left the school, we kept consulting and the general feeling was that the target was a bit high, not easily attainable. There was a proposal to adjust this, but somehow we never got to doing this. The determinant exams were being done between 11 and 13th October. In a mentorship forum that we held on 8th October, the kids made it clear, they remembered the promise if they added 40 marks!
Later on, the head teacher called me to clarify the issue and he was of the opinion that this may be a target too high to achieve but promised to check on the same and get back to me in two days’ time. I instructed him to check up to 30 marks and above. He was not very optimistic though, neither was I! When he called me back, it was with excitement in his voice! He was also shocked, 18 of the ‘average’ students had improved by up to 61 marks. Two pupils had improved with over 50 marks. In total 18 of the pupils who are not in the top 5 in the class had improved by between 32 and 61 marks!
The power of affirmation!
As we prepare to keep our promise, I can’t help marveling at how positive motivation can work. I realize that most of the times some students can sit back and not work hard, after all their fate is sealed! They can not be among the top students. I am inspired and encouraged as I look forward to a day with these kids before they sit for their final exams. No doubt, motivation and affirmation has a great space in the lives of children.