Updated: Sep 15, 2022
Metis alum Dr Maina WaGioko sat down with young leader Aziza Mwendwa to reflect on paradigm shifts in his career, and the role Metis has played in his journey. Pictured above, Maina with Gr. 2 students during an environmental learning activity.
I have dedicated my life to wielding the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world: education. Through this journey of educating myself and others, I have experienced major paradigm shifts. I used to be a teacher. I’d stand at the front of the classroom, and my pupils--equal parts bored and anxious--would transcribe copious notes from the board. I would act as a knowledge dispenser to learners who would memorize and replicate the information successfully in their examinations. For 10 years, I was that teacher. Then, I transformed into a learning facilitator. A learning facilitator motivates and empowers students to be active contributors to an interactive learning process. I have been a learning facilitator for the last 15 years and now I find I learn just as much from my students as they do from me. This perspective definitely goes against conventional Kenyan teaching methodologies, so I have often found myself frustrated within an antiquated system.
Dr Maina learns with Metis Fellows Kenneth Okolo of Kidogo, Teresa Njoroge of Clean Start, and Esther Gacicio of the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Design at a monthly Community of Practice session.
Thankfully, I found my “tribe” through Metis. In the company of broad-minded educators pushing the boundaries of teaching and learning, I had my second career paradigm shift. For the last decade, my mission has been serving the underserved. Through my work at Aga Khan, I ran projects for out of school youth and under-resourced classrooms and teachers on the coast of Kenya. However, my perspective on the scope of marginalization was narrow until I went through the Metis Fellowship. My interaction with the other Metis Fellows made me realize something humbling: I still privileged able-bodied and neurotypical learners, and still privileged boys. Not because I was consciously desiring this, but because I was blind.
Joining the Fellowship changed this. I met educators who worked with and for the incarcerated, for girls, for the disabled. I have many anecdotes to share, but I will stick with two. Firstly, in the fellowship, I was with ten strong women. They pushed me specifically to think about how the program I was running on the coast had to address gender stereotypes if I wanted to increase overall participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). “Are you getting to the root of why girls aren’t participating in STEM if you’re also not engaging teachers and families?” they asked. I have evolved from gender-biased to gender blind, to gender neutral, to gender conscious, and finally, gender responsive.
My interaction with the other Metis Fellows made me realize something humbling: I still privileged able-bodied and neurotypical learners, and still privileged boys. Not because I was consciously desiring this, but because I was blind. Joining the Fellowship changed this. I met educators who worked with and for the incarcerated, for girls, for the disabled.
Secondly, I visited Maria Omare at her Hub for The Action Foundation. Seeing her work with children with disabilities made me realize that there is so much more I could do for many more groups of people. In the trainings I had been doing for the national curriculum reform, I didn’t even hint at inclusion. I didn’t speak about modifications for the differently-abled. My visit to Maria completely changed this. Teachers across Kenya need to build their toolkit of how to engage with learners with autism, with physical disabilities, and with other learning disabilities.
Maria, Founder of The Action Foundation in their community hub for inclusion in Kibera
Beyond being challenged by the cohort of Kenyan leaders in the Metis Fellowship, the content and structure of the fantastic Metis design thinking curriculum led me on a broader path to innovative education intervention. It gave me the framework to creatively strengthen the programming we created for Aga Khan for girl’s STEM education on the Kenyan coast and improved my national teacher training for the curriculum reforms. Without Metis, I would not have the skills for inclusive pedagogy. The one-on-one mentorship sessions with my coach Rebecca helped me fine tune my ideas. The other fellows and invited experts were a well of knowledge, inspiration, and safety. They gave me a space to voice my ideas and learn about the best ways to implement them. I saw people who dared to realize their own wild dreams for education and this invigorated my ambition.
Metis continues to impact my work across the continent. For a new seven-year project to reach educators across East Africa our materials, delivery, and reporting are gender-responsive and as a prerequisite the educator should have taken a course on gender responsive pedagogy to equip the teachers with critical lenses. I am also integrating digital and in-person support for teachers to differentiate for learners with disabilities.
The lessons received from the Metis Fellowship have transformed my work practice, decision making, and idea generation from marginally marginalizing the marginalized (MMM) to engaging everybody equitably (EEE). I am glad to be a part of the Metis Community and to furthering excellence and equity in Kenya and beyond!
Dr Main WaGioko is a national teacher trainer for the Competency Based Curriculum, part of Kenya’s three-year reforms in education.
Dr. Maina WaGioko is the Vice Principal of Professional Development and Outreach at Aga Khan Academy Mombasa, a Microsoft Showcase school. He teaches World Studies, Physics and Design Technology. He featured among the Top 50 Finalists for the Varkey Foundation 1 Million Global Teacher Prize (2018), and the Top 100 Most Influential People inOnline Learning in Africa (2018). He is also a Learning Toolkit Ambassador for Africa. Dr. WaGioko has contributed to Kenya’s education reform by sharing his expertise both for the Digital Literacy Program, and in the creation of Kenya’s new competency-based curriculum.
Aziza Mwendwa graduated from Strathmore Law School with Honors and is studying for the bar at the Kenya School of Law. At university, she was the Organising Secretary of the Legal Aid Clinic. She teaches and mentors students from Kibera and Deep Sea Slums. She has a passion for education reform which is the focus of her current research.
“I try to be a guide by the side, rather than a sage on the stage,” says Maina.