Interview with Sean Anderson in Kenya

In 2017, our Drama-Based Education (DBE) teacher trainings in Rwanda will expand further and reach various new schools in Muhanga and Gasabo. And we’re excited to also launch a second destination in East Africa – Kenya!

The DBE work in East Africa is a partnership between GEI and the Anne Frank Project at SUNY-Buffalo State. In Kenya, the main hosts will be Woodland Star International School in Limuru near Nairobi as well as the Mara Naboisho Conservancy, a fascinating private conservancy on the outskirts of the famous Maasai Mara National Reserve.

A first delegation, led by the Anne Frank Project’s founding director and SUNY theater professor Drew Kahn, will travel to Kenya in the summer (June 25-15), immediately following our regular Rwanda delegation (June 4-24). A few places still remain on both programs, and students, faculty members and professionals are welcome to apply.

To gain further insight and context for the new program in Kenya, we have interviewed Sean Anderson, Director of the Board of Directors at Woodland Star International School and Chairman of the Mara Naboisho Conservancy:


Sean, what obstacles does the education system face in Kenya in providing engaging and meaningful classroom experiences for its students?

Kenyan teachers are of course making their best effort to equip their students to pass exams and progress to the next stage of their education or employment. However, these teachers face huge challenges, with large class sizes and often have a shortage of resources.

The Kenyan education system and teacher training is also hyper-focused on knowledge cramming and “rote learning” for the hallowed goal of passing critical examinations. The pressure to get results is immense on both teachers and students under this system and the learning atmosphere it generates is typically not one where children are encouraged to deeply digest the content or are developed in creative problem solving capabilities.

What tools can DBE curriculum provide in order to improve the educational experience of children in Kenyan classrooms?

DBE has the potential to equip Kenyan teachers with a completely different set of tools and vocabulary, in order to engage powerfully with their students. Kenya is a diverse country with over forty different tribes but, as is true across Africa cultures, story-telling and story-building resonate powerfully for all of the country’s students. Kenyan teachers are natural story-tellers – they just need to be empowered and trained how to bring that tool into the classroom.

We are confident that encouraging children to involve their physical bodies in the learning process through drama and narratives will bring their learning to a whole new level. And there is no doubt that the resultant high levels of engagement will also make classroom management much more realistic for teachers, even with the larger than ideal class sizes.

Why is this DBE training program ideal to make a positive impact on children’s education in Kenya?

The DBE training program is simply about reminding educators of the ancient power of stories, and then giving practical tools to teachers in order to bring this to life in the classroom. Building on the years of experience in working in Rwanda, we have gone on to develop trusted partnerships with communities and leading educators on the ground in Kenya.

The workshops we have already piloted have been a resounding success despite the very different communities in which we have conducted them – from the Maasai nomadic communities to working with children from marginalized and vulnerable urban backgrounds.

It is not our goal to rewrite Kenyan curriculum or content but we are certain that our tools are poised to make a remarkable impact, through the effectiveness of content delivery, and the ability of learners to gain a genuine and deep understanding of what is being taught.


For more information on our DBE programs, please follow the links below: