Penn GSE Student Makes a Difference in Nairobi

When Micaela Wensjoe headed to Kenya for the summer, she was focused on what she had to learn as part of an internship. But now that she is there, she has also developed an interest in helping orphans. 

Wensjoe, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, is blogging about all of it. 

As a student in the International Educational Development Program in Penn’s Graduate School of Education, she is interning at RTI International, an assignment that is giving her experience as a project manager while she makes field visits to schools across Kenya. 

Through her blog, “Jambo Kenya,” in Kiswahili, or “Hello, Kenya,” she is sharing her experiences and her impressions of Nairobi, like the first time she noticed that no one speaks English unless it is a formal setting.  

“In the street, everyone speaks Kiswahili, so it is difficult to understand what is happening around you,” she says. 

Wensjoe grew up in Lima, Peru, and chose this internship because her previous work had been in Latin America. She wanted the chance to understand the education system, as well as the reality of the schools and teachers, in a different context. 

As an IEDP student, her interests are teacher development, multilingual education and curriculum development. This summer, her internship is allowing her to work as a professional in the education field. 

Wensjoe is providing technical assistance to a national early reading program being implemented by the Kenyan government. The program is called “Tusome,” or “Let’s Read.” 

She is conducting a qualitative study on the adoption and initial implementation of the program and determining the main challenges in the process.

“With this information, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology will take early corrective measures if needed, so it is really important that we collect accurate and relevant information,” Wensjoe explains. 

She’s managing the entire process: she drafted the proposal for the study, she’s designing the instruments, she’s training field workers and she’s supervising data collection. Once the data is collected, she will oversee its analysis and generate the reports. 

She says her Penn GSE classes “have helped me understand that context is crucial and have given me the knowledge to work in educational development. I have realized how much I have learned in school during the last year.” 

While in Kenya, Wensjoe has been spending weekends volunteering at a children’s orphanage in Kibera, a poverty-stricken area. She also plans to start an online fundraising campaign for the orphanage. 

In addition, she's hoping to go on a few safaris, enjoy Nairobi’s and Kenya’s attractions and visit the beach on Mombasa, as well as Lake Nakuru. 

Wensjoe will graduate in May with a master of science in education in international educational development and education policy.

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