Today I met Andy Hill, Principal at Braeburn School in Nairobi. The meeting had been originally scheduled on my behalf to talk about their libraries and hopefully get a chance to see them, but it proved to be much more interesting than that. He eagerly discussed their learning solutions program that he said delivers, with the confidence that suggests he has the data to back it up. Deceivingly experienced given his youthful appearance, I found out that before his teaching career, Andy spent several years up country setting up and running a library program that provided books for schools and communities – some of them even mobile.
The guidance he had to pass on based on his experience thus proved invaluable. He said it was crucial to have someone directing the students to the resources for a project like this to work. They learned this as they were rolling theirs out, and started writing it into the agreements with the schools they supported. Their insistence in making the recipient school show that this requisite staff member was written into their budget became a criteria for eligibility. This is something we have also discussed at the Foundation, and will be writing into our model.
Andy also emphasized the importance of conducting random site visits to see how they are using the resources when you are not around. He said that often, they would show up at the school and find that the books were either locked up or taken home by staff members, in both cases obviously inaccessible to the students. We arranged for a second visit next week, for me to see the smart boards used in each class, tour the libraries, and then of course the famous Braeburn bar.