In 1990, the first Waldorf School started in Nairobi, Kenya. Since then Waldorf Education has expanded in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the three countries that form the East African Community.
Waldorf kindergarten education has been growing all this time, to the point now where there are four well established kindergartens and a large number of initiatives in the three countries. At the conference the first 13 kindergarten teachers received their diplomas, a very special moment in the lives of these teachers. Another 21 teachers, who have completed their modules, are eagerly awaiting being mentored in their classrooms, a task that needs urgent addressing. Then, there will follow another 28 teachers currently in training, and the numbers keep growing!
Training. The kindergarten training is part of a larger program that also trains primary school teachers for the schools in East Africa. Ann Sharfman (kindergarten) and Peter van Alphen (primary) from Cape Town, South Africa have been running these program’s for for many years at the Rudolf Steiner School in Nairobi. The purpose has been to lay a strong foundation for East African Waldorf Education by providing East African teachers with an ongoing development program. Schools, in the past, relied heavily on teachers from Europe and elsewhere. The disadvantage was that most could only stay for short periods and their input could not be sustained.
The training work has been a source of rich and deep experiences, both for students and trainers. East African individuals find a profound resonance in Waldorf Education with who they are, within their culture and particular environment. The intensity of discussion that follows the study of the principles of Waldorf Education is high among the students, and is inevitably followed by a host of questions and further interchange. It demonstrates how truly universal the principles of Waldorf education are, and how they are able to touch people from different parts of the world, each finding their unique way of expressing them in the service of the children in their care. As mentioned above, with the increasing numbers of kindergarten teachers in training, comes an increasing need for mentorship to guide them in applying what they have gained during the modules. Guiding and mentoring teachers in the classroom is a vital part of the training process.
There are three established schools with kindergartens in East Africa, that are a support to the many initiatives whose teachers are in training and are striving to develop Waldorf schools. The Rudolf Steiner School, Mbagathi, Nairobi was established first. This school caters for poorer children who live in the vicinity of the school, on the Maasai plains and the nearby town of Rongai. Most of these children are being sponsored by well-wishers from many different parts of the world. The school has a boarding house to house orphans and children from slum homes or rural areas. In their kindergartens and playgroup there are two teachers who qualified on the training program, and one who has completed the ten modules but is waiting to be mentored before she can qualify.
The Nairobi Waldorf School runs its own kindergarten as well as the Kileleshwa Kindergarten in another suburb of Nairobi. This school, like the Hekima Waldorf School in Dar es Salaam, caters for middle class families. Numbers of Ugandan teachers have attended the training program from the start, but due to various difficulties, they have not received the mentoring that follows the completion of the modules offered in Nairobi. It is hoped that the mentorship program can be extended to include Uganda soon, following a visit to establish the needs of each school’s situation.
It has become possible for Ann and Peter to spend a great deal more time in East Africa, in order to regularly mentor and guide teachers in the schools and initiative schools in the region. This aspect of the work is vitally important for the teachers who strive for excellence in their teaching. However, the necessary funding still needs to be found to carry out this work to the full.
A strong, vibrant community of East African teachers is emerging, promising an empowered and fulfilling future for the children in their care. Ultimately, every East African teacher’s wish, which has been expressed again and again, is to bring this opportunity to every child in their respective countries.
Ann Sharfman is Waldorf kindergarten teacher and an internal active trainer