PROJECT LEAD, KENYA
Eight years of primary school, four years of secondary school and four years university is the education most Kenyans receive. A graduate is considered a highly educated person and expected to find a well-paid job. The hope of securing their future made many people thirsty for education. The more everyone follows this system, the more the supply of educated people exceeds the market, which leads to unemployment even for well educated people. Hopelessness and lost focus pushes many of them into drug addiction or thievery just because the system did not work for them. These circumstances very clearly indicate that our education – apart from making us literate – does not empower people to realize their purpose or identify their talents. Hence only a few truly benefit from it.
When Susanne Stauch told me about the aim of her project last year, I felt very honored to participate. Once the work with the children began, their determination was remarkable to the extent that some suggested to even work on the weekends. They started with observing their environment and denominating daily problems that they face or experience. These insights were shared with the Berlin students, who then gave the children some introductory tasks into the design process. In order to solve a problem by turning it into something valuable, the children started working with waste material collected from their environment. At the same time, the Berlin students designed objects, frequently comparing the results and developing the ideas further.
As we were getting more involved in the project, the values of this work became clear. The children worked in teams, supervised and taught each other, which increased their self-responsibilty and resilience. The focus on creativity, craftsmanship and expressing their observations in a designerly way unfolded even more unknown talents. The weekly meetings boosted the children’s self-esteem, partly because they never got an opportunity to express themselves creatively, partly because they never even realized they had such talents at all. Some of them stated in concluding interviews that their newly gained awareness impacted their lives with the realization that they can earn a living while having fun and preserving the environment. This type of enlightened education can empower today’s children and liberate them from an outdated school system, enabling them to nurture their talents, be it art, music, acting, medicine or anything else they dream of. Schools can be places where children enjoy learning without feeling forced into something inappropriate to their personal skills.
This project clearly went beyond making design products. It was an empowering tool for the children, the teachers and myself. Due to the high rate of environmental pollution and unemployment, we saw a way to solve both with one solution. If we succeeded to integrate everything we learned into our curriculum, we are now able to reduce waste through productive upcycling ideas, hence saving our environment while creating employment at the same time.