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Corner of Hope

The Corner of Hope is a pilot project to show how Montessori Teacher Training and Schools can be delivered to the most vulnerable communities such as those in refugee, transit and IDP Camps. Its aim is self-reliance not dependence, community not school. Self ownership and control, dignity and self worth which all play an important role in overcoming the effects of trauma experienced by the inhabitants of the camps. It has the added advantage of building for the future and creating transferable skills that will accompany both adults and children wherever their final destination may be.

Project Objectives

  • Create a school for 520 children within the IDP Camp
  • Train 40 teachers with sufficient knowledge to work in other schools
  • Train 4 Mentors with the ability to duplicate the project
  • Provide shelter for the school with a wider community purpose
  • Feed the children and the teachers
  • Stimulate enterprise and impart knowledge in respect of the local manufacture of educational puzzles, uniforms, knit wear, furniture and bricks
  • Engage local community in all aspects of the process
  • Provide a model for government and NGO analysis
  • Seed similar projects in other IDP/Transit Camps
  • All building, organising, teaching to be done by the camp inhabitants with only a small amount of external expertise

March 2016 Update

The school at New Canaan, Nakuru has been maintaining steady student numbers at around 100. The classrooms have been named after fruits and have all been fitted with new doors. A snack corner has been set up for the children for them voluntarily come out of their classes when they are hungry or thirsty and sit down for a cup of porridge during the day and two large water urns have been placed in the compound for washing up and cleaning. 

The camp has been connected to electricity since mid 2015 and the new staff room has a tube light and 2 plug points. The workshop has been divided into three parts by partition walls and now there is a storage room, a workshop and the staff room. The little garden between the two classes of Phase I is now a thriving vegetable plot.

The school at Kisima, Njoro continues to grow with over 80 children now attending everyday. Unfortunately, due to a lack of proper sanitation and accommodation facilities in the area, teachers are finding it hard to live and work there. Plans are being drawn up for housing for 3 teachers, a latrine block for the children and teachers as well as a basic kitchen shed to start the feeding programme. 

Quotations are also being reviewed for other maintenance work such a roof repairs, repainting and building the compound wall at New Canaan and classroom floor flattening, painting, window grills, etc. at Kisima. The work is scheduled for the spring term break in April.

The teachers and the community were really happy with the children’s progress and also with the reputation of the school. All the children (100%) who were taken for interviews at the end of the last school year had been accepted into the local primary schools - many without interviews. Apparently the parents have only to say that they are at Corner of Hope and the children are often placed one or even two classes ahead. Parents are eagerly waiting for the primary (Montessori elementary) class to start so that their children can continue at Corner of Hope. 

In August, the school hosted Jules Layman and friends who were traveling in East Africa and were keen to visit. Jules has been teaching in international Montessori environments for over 30 years and is actively involved in AMI’s Educateurs sans Frontières. She created and runs a popular website (www.montessoriaroundtheworld.org) to enable people to assist Montessori programmes around the world that are in need of resources. She was interested in seeing how the school serves as a model for children in similar circumstances around the world. The group was very touched to see the work that is being done in the school. Jules said, “...it brought tears to my eyes to see these children in such carefully prepared Montessori environments, focused and engaged with the materials...great time and effort has gone into properly training the teachers and creating this program for the children and their families.” 

The Yokohama Montessori School community in Japan donated shoes for the children of Corner of Hope. Coordinated by Ichiro Miyamoto, a parent, the shoes were collected, washed thoroughly, dried, and individually packed before sending them.  The teachers were very happy to receive the shoes to be distributed.

The Austin Montessori School elementary after-school club voted to donate the largest part of their Christmas bazaar sale proceeds to Corner of Hope. The donation will be used for books and bookshelves to create libraries at both sites.

Module 4 of the Elementary Course took place in November 2015 and students are making steady progress with lectures, material practice and completing their charts and timelines. The Kenyan and Tanzanian students on the course have formed a close bond and work well together. Module 5 will start in April 2016 with a stronger focus on handmade materials.  

Start of Project, April 2010

Construction of the roofs for Corner of Hope School started in April 2010 in two phases. Two teams of people from the community were trained in how to construct the roofs. Training was done by TSC Global who are specialists in thin shell concrete roof technology. Project managers from TSC were on the ground from Colorado, USA guiding and training the teams to construct roofs for the first phase. They also got the teams started on the second phase to construct four more roofs. Six more roofs were constructed independently for the second phase using the skills that the teams acquired. A total of twenty roofs have been completed for eight classrooms, workshop and kitchen.

The teams who have participated in the training will receive a certificate of training. This will enable them to use the skills elsewhere and earn an income in the future. The ground has been leveled with the help of the teams and parents of the children in preparation for the walls and floors.

In August 2010, a compressed brick machine was purchased for the community to make bricks using earth, some cement and water. So far the community has produced 9000 bricks, enough to almost complete the walls for four classrooms.  We are awaiting the approval of the walling plans from the local municipality to start the process. The local company called Makiga Engineering from whom we acquired the Brick making machine will help us to oversee the walling process.

The school layout and walling plans have been kindly designed by Steve Lawrence.

The construction department of the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru has been contracted to build eight latrines for the school. Holes for the latrines are being dug at present.  The community will simultaneously build the last roof that will cover the latrines. The latrine compound will be fenced and secured.

The present makeshift medical facility in the camp is going to be converted to a functional, registered medical dispensary. The medical coordinator of the Catholic Diocese for funding possibilities has drawn up a proposal from the Corner of Hope Fund through AMI.  Once approved, the refurbishing will start to have it ready by January 2011. In order for the medical facility to be registered by the government and be a part of its annual health budget, it needs to be running for at least six months. Once it is registered, the government will provide nursing and medical supplies. The dispensary will serve the children and families on the camp. It will also serve neighboring communities for a fee so that it can eventually become self-sufficient.

One hundred and ninety one children have been registered for school. Four classrooms in the existing tents and makeshift tin structures have been started in May 2010.

Eight trainee teachers from within the camp are being trained at the St. Ann's Montessori Teacher Training College. They started their training in April 2010. Their training timetable is designed to enable the teachers to implement what they have learnt under the guidance of two mentor teachers. The trainers at the college ensure regular visits to monitor progress and observe. In order to document progress, they are also responsible for writing monthly reports and ensuring that photographs are taken.

So far the trainee teachers have made Practical Life and most of the Sensorial materials including some of the Mathematics and Language materials. They have also completed writing their Practical Life reference folders and are progressing well with writing their Sensorial reference folders.