The last of our Summer Travel Blog series!
Our last post in the Summer Travel Blog series focused on Charles Sheerin’s trip to southern Kenya and the power of simple interventions that he witnessed there. Charlie, the Director of Communications and Resource Development at the Aga Khan Foundation USA (AKF USA), was also able to visit an innovative primary education program while in Kenya.


In Kwale District, Charlie visited the local office of the Hewlett Foundation-funded project called East Africa Quality in Early Learning (EAQEL). EAQEL helps children improve their reading skills by using the Reading to Learn (RtL) model, whereby teachers provide support to children in early grades to understand concepts and independently carry out tasks. Part of the method includes teachers being trained to develop and use instructional materials made from local resources and assess learners regularly. Parents are also involved as they are trained to read to and with their children.
Traveling with Christine Bukania, the Communications Officer for EAQEL, they met Mr. Lemmy Mole, the EAQEL Project Officer for that area. Mole regularly bikes to 9 different schools in the district to help teachers and parents adapt to this new method, which requires more parent and teacher involvement. Mole explained that despite their initial hesitation, over time the teachers became more engaged and they noticed that students were paying more attention. Seeing their extra work pay off made the teachers even more interested in their jobs.
“I understand why he is so respected by teachers and parents,” said Charlie, “He is a former teacher so he understands the situation teachers and parents face, but he is so passionate and articulate about the value of this approach for children.”


Mole took Christine and Charlie to see another innovative method of RtL, a community library. As part of the EAQEL project, communities nominate a mother to house a book box. This book box is meant for the entire community to use. “We arrived in this small village late in the afternoon to visit the family that housed the library,” Charlie explains, “By chance, a group of fathers and their children were sitting outside the house reading. We asked them about the community library and they replied that it made a big difference for their children because when school was on holiday, as it was that month, they could make sure their children didn’t lose any ground in their reading.” The families come to sit and read together on many afternoons and often bring a book back to their house for further practice.
By implementing programs that rely on local involvement, AKF USA ensures that community partnerships are formed. “This type of community engagement is at the heart of everything we do,” says Charlie. As Charlie witnessed in Kenya, these partnerships empower community members to become involved and give them opportunities to learn from the process.

East Africa Quality in Early Learning (EAQEL) is an initiative of the Aga Khan Foundation that began in 2007 and operates in both Kenya and Uganda. The program works in grades one through three and focuses on teacher training in reading and math. The EAQEL program worked with over 11,000 students in Kenya in 2010. To date, the EAQEL program has established mini-libraries in 192 classrooms and community libraries in 100 villages in Kenya.