Blog: Montessori in Africa

How does Montessori education translate to the challenging environment of an internally displaced person’s camp in Africa? When resources are low and challenges are high, what does the Montessori method offer teachers and children in this situation? 

Long-term Maria Montessori Institute member of staff, Poinsy Pino, is the Outreach Coordinator for our work in Kenya, the AMI Corner of Hope Educateurs sans Frontieres (EsF) initiative which focuses on Montessori teacher training and mentoring for teachers from the local communities. Poinsy shares her notes from Kenya where she recently visited schools and training centres at Corner of Hope and the nomadic schools created for the Samburu in the Sahara.

• Education is often difficult to provide as children have to uphold family traditions and are often a long journey away from any school provision. Girls’ education is most affected as they are often trapped by traditional expectations.

• Things that affect the children at Corner of Hope are unmet basic needs such as food and water; and a shortage of age-appropriate books in both English and their own languages. In the Samburu nomadic community the prolonged drought and dry weather conditions have caused a lack of food and water.

A teacher trainee giving the first presentation of the Red Rods material. The child was excited to choose the next rod and when the teacher placed it to compare with another rod, the child smiled to see that it was shorter. 
The Ntaparani Montessori School in Samburu. The tent contains the materials where most are laid on the floor and a few on the shelf. The children take a mat and their materials to work outside.
  • One of the positive things that stood out for me was the openness of the teachers and tutors and how eager they were to improve themselves in their work. An example of this was that to help the children improve their use of English and Kiswahili in the class, the teachers decided to assign one amongst them to consistently and only speak English and one to only speak Kiswahili.
  • Children were usually shy to talk to me other than to greet me, but a child from an Elementary class came into my office one day and after I greeted him and asked if he needed anything, he answered in short and complete sentences and with much confidence! This was less than two weeks after the teachers agreed to have one adult to consistently speak English and the other one Kiswahili. What an inspiration!
These two Elementary children take it in turns to read aloud. They laugh together and correct each other when they make mistakes, asking for help from their teacher when they met a word that they couldn’t decode.
This child is working on the Decanomial Square for quite some time without any distraction. Many children are getting and replacing their materials on the shelf but he did not lift his head even once.
  • Another key challenge in the school is that there are lots of children in each classroom – there are far too many, which means that sometimes creative thinking is required for there isn’t enough space to easily do Montessori activities such as Walking on the Line to take place. However, this was resolved by setting it up in the space outside the classroom.
  • I was amazed by the children’s excellent spatial awareness considering how small the classroom space is and how crowded it is with tables, chairs, shelves and mats. There was no tripping or falling over materials or other children which was impressive to watch.
  • Overall, my key takeaway was the confirmation that Montessori works whenever, wherever, and whoever you offer it to!
Poinsy Pino (4th from left) visiting the Child Developers Programme in Nairobi which was established by Muriel Dwyer who also co-founded the Maria Montessori Institute with Mario Montessori in 1961. Also pictured is Francesca Kipsoi (2nd from the left) who is Programme Director of Montessori for Kenya.










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