The East Pokot initiative supports young people from the Pokot community to become early childhood Montessori teachers and gain a nationally recognised teaching qualification. Skilled and motivated teachers from the community are key to increasing access to quality education in the region. By supporting the children from their community, they can contribute to creating more chances for families living in the remote and under-resourced East Pokot region.
East Pokot is a district in the Kenyan Rift Valley Province, located in the arid savannah plains north of Lake Baringo. The district is almost exclusively inhabited by the Southern Nilotic speaking Pokot and is one of the most underdeveloped areas of Kenya, characterised by rapid population growth, weak infrastructure, and low literacy rates. A large part of the population are pastoralists who live a traditional lifestyle.
Although primary education is provided in government schools free of charge, the quality is low, and children have little access to schools due to a shortage of trained teachers and poor infrastructure in the region. Children often miss out on school or are forced to drop out at a young age, with girls being the most vulnerable group. The inability to access or continue with education exposes children to the vicious cycle of poverty, leading to low economic development at household and community levels.
The focus is on building teacher capacity in close collaboration with local partners, making it a cost-effective and scalable model for quality Montessori education in the region. Trainees from the Pokot community are identified and supported to complete the two-year National Montessori certificate course. The course consists of one year of theoretical study and material making followed by a year of teaching practice. The trainees conduct their practice in existing schools in East Pokot where they set up a Montessori environment with the support of a mentor teacher. Upon graduation, they are employed by the school with ongoing support from mentor teachers. The partner schools include government schools as well as schools managed by faith-based organizations.
The initiative builds on extensive experience and learnings of the Corner of Hope schools in Nakuru, Kenya, which was established by Association Montessori Internationale in 2010. Corner of Hope was developed as a model for accessible Montessori teacher training and schools, demonstrating that the highest quality Montessori education can be established in the most under-resourced contexts.
Skilled teachers can provide a supportive environment in which children can build a foundation for life. This is particularly crucial in the first years of life. The provision of quality early childhood education has the potential to contribute to improved livelihoods in all aspects. Teachers are the role models in their communities and can inspire children to become agents of change.
Only two years into existence, the East Pokot Montessori initiative has already reached many children and families in East Pokot. Ten teachers have completed their training or are currently in training, and five Montessori environments have been set up, serving about 250 children in the region.