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'Following the North Star' series: A is for Agency

Updated: Nov 7, 2022


“ If we all could see the world through the eyes of a child, we would see the magic in everything”

When 6-year-old Louie is asked what his mother does, he says, “ My mother started an organization that really cares about children and young people. They care about them so much, that they support them in the things they love doing.”

Through the eyes of Louie, one can step back and really see the “Big Picture”.

Louie's mother, Carol Owala, Metis Cohort 6 fellow and a long-time educator founded Big Picture Learning Kenya in 2018. Having grown up in Kibera, the biggest slum in Africa, she witnessed first-hand how learners in marginalized communities struggled with poverty, a lack of resources, and zero empowerment. “ The Kenyan education system is so exam-oriented. When you are a student in a community high school, chances are that you have already failed in your KCPE. You are constantly reminded that you are a failure, and that affects your self-esteem. You walk around knowing that you are a failure,” she relates.

Carol’s mission is to change that narrative for all learners affected in this way. She explains, “At Big Picture Learning, we help learners believe that authentic learning comes from the pedagogy of confidence”.

Simply put, the pedagogy of confidence is focused on recognizing and amplifying the strengths of underserved students. By helping them build confidence and self-efficacy, they begin to see themselves as agents of change within their own communities.

Take Vyetty for example, he comes from a very humble background and has for the longest time, been struggling with his identity as a young person. He lied about himself to his peers, got expelled from two schools, and was suspended a few too many times as well. Big Picture Learning met Vyetty while he was in his last high school, and at that time, he didn’t believe he was going to make it to his KCSE. All this was happening at the peak of Covid 19, he had suffered some losses and was struggling with his overall mental health.

Vyetty was then enrolled in the Big Picture Learning program where he took on a mental health project. During this process, he was able to identify fellow youth, who also suffered from mental health challenges. He found his gusto. He came up with a proposal, powered through research, interviewed young people within his community, and with the goal of helping them, developed a project based on understanding mental health, and how young ones would find support for it. A manual was created, and he also partnered with an organization that had previously trained him on website development, to develop a website that will help young people in marginalized communities access mental health support. He is currently exploring the possibility of using animal therapy.

Through the agency facilitated by Big Picture Learning Kenya, Vyetty is now a solid anchor in his community to many of his peers. He knows that he has what it takes to change things for himself and for his community and is determined to be one of the fine details that creates life’s big picture.

Vyetty will be featured on our youth panel at ReimaginED 2022.

Don't miss out on the opportunity to hear from him and other learners as they discuss

“Our dream for Kenya!"

BPLK Impact

  • Since 2018, with the support of Metis, Girl Rising and other committed partners, BPLK has reached 213 teachers and school leaders from 6 schools, which is expected to increase the quality of education for 3704 students.

  • BPLK staff provided 141 hours of training, mentoring and ongoing feedback sessions and celebrated the graduation of 12 youths from its flagship students’ Leadership Academy(LA) program.

  • The organization also sponsored 5 students (3 girls & 2 boys), to attend colleges and universities. In addition, BPLK has continued to refine its model by launching internal innovations including the compilation of the completion of a student leadership pilot program (Kuna Nuru) to inform its work and impact the broader education field.

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