Shaping education policy through storytelling

Earlier this year, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development asked Kenyans to give them their views on curriculum reform. #CurriculumReformsKE developed round the views of #KOT; providing a confluence of views. People were engaged, opinionated, driven to contribute to the conversation, to share their experiences and recommendations. Everyone is impacted in some ways by education and the trending topic it became on two occasions showed just how much they care.

It was a big lesson for us; there is a need to build a community round education information. A place where people can learn and talk about education policy, practice, and proposals. It led to the idea that is Drawing Board Africa. A chance for us to tell data-driven stories about education in Kenya that are accessible and help to inform conversations and shape discourse.

The people behind Drawing Board, Melissa Mbugua, Nyambura Mutanyi & Laila Le Guen, are passionate about education and have varied skills among them tech, teaching, research, communication and social impact management. We bring this to our storytelling and we anticipate it’ll enrich the stories we shall tell using text, data visualisation, and audio clips.

We intend to set off in the new year and create a resource that will hopefully lead to more nuanced conversations about education, an audience that is engaged in education policy, and pithy pieces that are cool and shareable. An #InnovateAfrica grant would make a world of difference for us. It would enable us to tell stories like one we’ve mulled over for a while — What arc has special needs education had in Kenya? How is it funded? What opportunities exist? — and the many more that need to be told.

What stories would you like told about education in Kenya? Tell us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and use #DrawingBoardAfrica. We look forward to bringing them to life!

(This was originally posted on Medium and I’m happy to share it here. Really excited about Drawing Board and what we’ve set off to achieve.)

Education, Musings

My vision of education

I am a firm believer in the capacity of public goods to supply our needs. In that regard, I push for more, and better, public hospitals and schools.

My birthday is tomorrow and I am not yet at the point at which one writes a personal manifesto so this is the closest thing as I grow older.

As regular readers may have noticed, I am passionate about education and I identify as a feminist. My feminist stance affects how I feel about education and it’s this: We need free, quality, accessible, basic education for all children.

We especially need it for girls and young women because the way the patriarchy is set up, boys will be chosen over girls when resources are scarce. It needs to be free for this reason; so that no one person denies their child an education because they do not have funds.

It needs to be a quality education because otherwise it’s just a checklist item being ticked off. It needs to be the sort of education that enables children to navigate the world they live in and equips them to deal with one not yet seen. One that gives them room to try out a variety of things and to find what they love. One that imagines all children as capable of more than the things that capitalism ascribes with value: money, possessions, political influence.

Education needs to be accessible. When I think of all the solutions that are envisioned for education, I see the children left behind: Those who live far from school, those with special needs, those who have come into contact with the carceral state, those who are separated from their parents. If education does not answer the needs of these children, something still needs to be done.

It’s easy to sound like a wet blanket when I say these things but I have seen what a difference believing in them makes in the life of children. If one believes-like I do-in these matters, they will attend those long, tedious parents’ meetings at school. And when they do, they’ll demand certain things: rebuild that wall, make sure the sanitary facilities are up to par, why is the school’s performance so bad? And then you will stick around to see change come to pass and after that, keep those in charge accountable.

One day I shall talk about how I square this desire to see certain goods in the public domain with wanting to see the children I care for succeed. Before then, I leave you with this manifesto; one I feel challenged by every time I read.

Happy birthday tomorrow, Nyambura.





Introducing Women’s Kenyan History

My friend Roo put me to task last week when I complained about the male-centric looks at Kenyan history that litter the internet. My argument was that even highlights in history are experienced differently and that some things that are a blip in the radars of men are major events for women. We have had a variation of this conversation more than once but this time, there was a twist: Do it yourself, he said.

Why not, I thought? I am interested in Kenyan history, I am a woman, and I listen to women’s tales in my family in the context of history. It would be interesting, I agreed, to tell stories about Kenya and say, “Hey, Kenyan women went through this period like this.”

In what could be interpreted as a message from the universe, I met the interesting Cera Njagi of Kenyan Feminist and we had a wonderful conversation around this. I see interesting conversations and writing coming of it.

Where do you come in? Please send me stories, leads, ideas, questions or books. If there’s a time in history you are particularly knowledgeable about and want to talk about it with a writer or a book that you’ve read that was particularly illuminating, shoot me that message.

I intend to make it a fortnightly event, starting this Wednesday. Here’s to the first instalment this Wednesday!

Note: This post is part of #CuminWrites366, my year-long attempt to write a post a day. Find the rest over at

Questions, comments, suggestions or thoughts on privacy? Send them to 🙂


KNLS Library Membership is Free \o/

The Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) has a wide library network across Kenya with 60 or so branches, one close to you. Thanks to a recent change to the law governing its operations effected by Hassan Wario, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and the Arts, membership is free as long as the prospective member produces passport photos (some libraries will take your photo themselves), fills a membership form and gets a commitment from an institution (an employer or school, for example). This is a dip from the KSh 300 it previously cost for employed adults, and KSh 3,000 for self-employed people), to sign up (with a KSh 100 renewal fee) and a welcome development for those who may not previously have been able to afford it.

The scrapping of membership charges comes with a new introduction: a KSh 20 fee for each book one borrows and a 100% increase in late return fees (from Ksh 5 to KSh 10 per day). For heavy users, such as yours truly, this will result in much more than the KSh 100 annual renewal fee previously charged (a book a week=26*20=520) but it has a positive effect that I’m excited about. And it is this:

Members do not have to pay entry charges (which remain at KSh 20 a day) and that means that more people have a chance to use the library. For people looking to learn, they have a range of books that would aid anyone’s education. The Nairobi Area Library (my local) has an internet connection so you can use the internet, too. For free!

Libraries are a great way to explore the world and educate yourself. Get your KNLS membership today!