Impact Stories & Blogs
Our team share their insights and perspectives on the impact our program is having on youth in East and Central Africa.
Robert Omwa HSC, Kenya, Civic Leadership Track, Cohort 27
“I love children. Teaching and engaging with them is something I look forward to everyday” says Robert Omwa, a YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa (YALI RLC EA) Cohort 27 alumnus and a teacher based in Kisumu County. Robert who has been a teacher since 2012 has taught in five schools with over 5,000 learners going through his classes. These are young boys and girls that he has taken through formal education and training in life skills, girl child empowerment, mental health, self-esteem among other important life issues that they need to learn. “I see these students as a critical mass of change agents who will in turn positively influence their peers,” says a seemingly passionate Robert.
Robert never wanted to be a teacher and instead his eyes were set on becoming a journalist. “I wanted to speak out for the less fortunate. However, my parents could not afford it. In 2006, I joined Narok Teachers Training College where I studied and received a certificate in Education. Much later in 2013, I enrolled in University of Nairobi to study Bachelor of Education, English and Literature where I graduated in 2017.”
In December 2018, the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta awarded Robert the highly coveted Head of State Commendation (HSC) for the work he does in education as a Kenyan who has contributed immensely to better the lives of other Kenyans through his teaching job. “This was a huge and unbelievable surprise. When the medal was conferred, I was grateful that the work I am doing in collaborating with other teachers to speak out against any form of violence against children, mostly the Girl Child is being recognized”. Robert serves as a mentor to fellow teachers to be gender champions otherwise known as Beacon Teachers. He adds, “A Beacon Teacher is like a light house and always on the look out to ensure children's rights have not been violated. These teachers have sensitized learners, parents and even fellow teachers on ways to keep children safe in and out of schools”. Working with the teachers' employer, the Teachers Service Commission, Robert has managed to reach over 6,000 teachers with child protection messages and to appoint them as gender champions.
During Covid-19 pandemic after schools closed, Robert in collaboration with Working with Beacon Teachers Africa (BETA) in which he is a Board Member, managed to use online video conferencing platforms like Zoom to train teachers on Mind Set Education, Positive Discipline and to mentor teachers who were suffering mental health issues due to job loss among other reasons.
Robert is a Certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator and Certified Positive Discipline Classroom Educator. Both certifications are from the Positive Discipline of Connecticut, USA after a rigorous online training. He now has the full mandate of Positive Discipline Association (PDA) to teach Parenting classes. He also coaches teachers on ways of having children grow in an environment where there is mutual respect, where children are taught to regulate their behaviors and grow into respectful members of the society. Positive Discipline is also huge in advocating against corporal punishment which is a child rights violation that has negatively impacted learning in Kenya.
“This year, I received an email from the Positive Discipline Association (PDA) about being appointed as an International Advisor to the Organization. I was pinching myself to wake up from what I thought was a dream”, he lets out a hearty laugh. As an international advisor to PDA, he will be tasked to work alongside other Positive Discipline trainers around the world to brainstorm on ways in which positive discipline can be made accessible across all corners of the World. It also gives insight on how positive discipline methods resonate with different cultures.
“The thing about all the doors mentioned above was it happened after attending YALI RLC EA. From the HSC, PDA...YALI RLC EA equipped me with skills to be a better teacher. In the social inclusion class, I learnt the importance of including all members of the society in decision making. Women, girls, people with disability, the poor all have a contribution to make in nation building.” He continues, “The method of learning at the Center was an awakening for me as I realized ways of making my lessons fun while still achieving the set lessons objectives. After YALI RLC EA, I went back to Thim Bonde Primary School where I was a teacher and implemented this. The learners loved my lessons more, word went round and a remarkable improvement in student population was recorded”.
To keep in touch with the girls and boys whom he mentors while in school, Robert founded Precious Seed Africa (www.preciousseedafrica.org) a youth-led organization that champions for youth empowerment and child protection. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the organization managed to distribute 1300 masks. They also distributed food stuff to over 700 needy people and reached out to women in 13 markets in creating awareness about the Covid-19 pandemic and what precautions they need to take.
Robert has also worked with organizations like Plan International to mentor girls who have been used as Girls advocates under the program of Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA) which is run by Terres de Hommes and Plan International. Out of this project, Robert has received numerous opportunities to speak on national and local radio stations voicing strongly the messages of girls’ empowerment and the menace of the teenage pregnancies.
What does the future hold for him? “Before the YALI RLC EA experience, I never knew that my voice as a teacher mattered. I just taught. I came to realize after YALI RLC EA that as a teacher I am tasked to raise the next generation of leaders and that is my purpose. I want to make a difference in their lives and also spread the gospel of positive discipline.”