Enitta Olang': Delivering the PYP in Kiswahili | Aga Khan Academies

Enitta Olang': Delivering the PYP in Kiswahili

Enitta Olang’ is a dynamic teacher with over 17 years’ of teaching experience at the primary level, nine of them at the Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa. Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Education, Enitta set out to facilitate student learning, first teaching within the Kenyan system of education for eight years before joining the Academy in 2006. Her objective: to identify how each student learns, and to provide an environment to support his or her learning. “I believe that every child can learn if given an opportunity and the time to do so,” says Enitta.

What brought her to the Academy was the inquiry-based programme that gives children the voice and opportunity to explore their questions. While attending a science workshop as part of the Academy’s Outreach Programme, she learned the inquiry methodology that she quickly implemented in her classroom. “It worked beautifully,” she exclaims. “Assessment is not purely on paper! A range of approaches were used to assess and present the students’ own understanding.” She liked that the International Baccalaureate (IB) program nurtured the students’ curiosity and offered them the opportunity to develop relevant skills. “It gave them the confidence to explore what they did not know.”

Forever Young

Enitta wanted to be a teacher all her life. She describes her career choice quite poetically: “People grow old and die doing other jobs, but in my mind my teachers always remained young.” However, she almost had a change of heart when her grade 5 math teacher used a stick when teaching multiplication tables. “Thankfully my passion to be a teacher was rekindled in high school by my literature teacher who taught me that teachers can choose how to facilitate learning, and it is not prescribed by any curriculum,” says Enitta. “I was inspired to teach differently, if only to prove to my math teacher that the stick doesn’t help to make concepts ‘stick’ in a student’s mind.”

At the Academy, she has been able to do just that – to teach differently. She started at the Academy in the Dual Language Programme as the teacher of Kiswahili. When asked how she felt to be the first teacher to deliver the Primary Years Programme (PYP) in Kiswahili, she jokes, “Have you ever been blindfolded, taken to the edge of a pool and asked to jump in not knowing how deep it was?” Joking aside, knowing how PYP works, she thought delivering it in Kiswahili would be relatively easy given that it is her mother tongue. “But I did find some differences in culture and grammar,” she says. "For example, the week starts on Sunday in the Gregorian calendar while it starts on Saturday in Kiswahili culture.”

“Parents of our students do not necessarily speak Swahili,” she explains. “To enable them to support their children, we share the learning goals for the Dual Language Programme then follow up with daily communication via the diary, sending regular learning updates and overviews.” A successful parent-student encounter is one of the highlights of her experience. When a Dutch student joined the Academy without fluency in either English or Kiswahili, instruction was a challenge. Enitta decided to use drama, art and music as a strategy to enhance understanding. This was a success. “Each morning, we would receive a detailed email from her father on the previous day’s activities with the student’s homework narrated by her, but written by the father,” says Enitta. “I developed goose bumps when all she would do was smile her 'thank you,' and I couldn’t wait to read the emails that her father would send!”

Enitta loves being part of the Academy community. “It is like a multicultural village that empowers young people through working together,” she says. She points to the Academy’s educational statement as a unifying goal. “It seeks to engage with and celebrate diversity of cultures, religions, experiences and backgrounds, inspiring students to use their gifts to help others,” explains Enitta. “Its diverse curriculum offers the study and understanding of global issues, and arms students with skills that support them to look beyond learning and becoming useful citizens in their communities.” 

All these, coupled with what she calls an excellent facility, is what makes her happy to be at the Academy. “Teaching at the Academy gives me an opportunity to be part of the team that contributes to this noble tenure. I count this as my greatest income.”

By Farzana Logan