The Commons: The Glory Values School Has No Rules
Yet its values may save Kenya.
Photo Courtesy of the Glory Value School
A student once told me, “Do you know, Grandmother [that’s what they call me], you are letting down your integrity ratio?”
“How?” I asked.
“Last term you promised to award anybody who got an A in the exam.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. I had forgotten. “Tomorrow I will.”
So the following day, I arrived with the prizes. They were not very big. But they went to the very heart of our Glory Values School in Butere, Kenya. These girls—the students—were concerned that I not lose my integrity. The heart of the school is that the teachers, the learners, and the workers partake of the same values. So all of us are growing in integrity. That makes the child feel “I am important. I am loved. I am respected.”
Our school has no rules, in the traditional sense; rather, it teaches values—integrity, love, and honesty—as well as accountability to oneself and others. This is a cure for our “sick” Kenyan political, social, and economic system. By instilling values we can ultimately heal our country of tribalism, corruption, and the impunity that includes violence during every election cycle: the winner-take-all by whichever tribe prevails.
This is a high school, with students ranging from age 13 to 18. When new students come, they suffer from shock because they have left a background of rules and regulations. After the shock, the first thing we do is to wean them: make them realize that they can transcend the prefect system and school rules to growing, nurturing, and living good values.
How do we do it? We set up deliberate debates. The girls are encouraged to speak, and they begin to weigh the options. We melt away the myths, the stereotypes, about people and facts. And how do we do this? We have set up a room for research. So the young girls are encouraged to go in and read. They begin to appreciate the importance of knowledge. They begin to move away from ignorance, because it is ignorance that the peddlers of tribal feelings use. As the girls learn the power of knowledge, two things happen: They begin to perform well in academics, and they become confident because they have something to say. We have books that are written by Kenyans. The girls begin to discover that this author who comes from that tribe can say something good—and that another author, who comes from the enemy tribe, is also good.
What we call the “interruption” of values living has encouraged the girls to undertake a weekly mentorship of children in primary schools. Our girls mentor the children through play, conversations, and creativity—all related to inculcating values in their daily lives. The children look forward to these sessions every week. This is an interruption in their family, home, and village life.
Another interruption came when a sophomore girl, Cathy Ong’ale (age 16), was disturbed by the petty theft of necessities, and created our “Samaritan Bank.” Now, at the beginning of term, students encourage their parents and guardians to buy a small amount extra of personal effects such as pens and sanitary napkins. These are kept at a central place: a bank run by four students, one from each class. Whoever runs out goes and withdraws from the bank. The parents have been convinced. Theft is very rare. Honesty has increased—to the level of returning lost items such as money.
Among other interruptions, each girl is in collaboration with the school to grow arrowroot, and the proceeds are shared: 40 percent to the school; 20 percent to the girl’s pocket money; 20 percent to the girl’s education; 10 percent to tithing; and 10 percent to the girl’s parents. Tithing teaches the nobility of paying taxes. But the whole process teaches due process, as opposed to shortcuts. Shortcuts are the mindset of corruption, the leading cancerous ailment of our country. The school, in finding a way for the girl to earn some money toward her education, is slowly assisting more girls to gain access to the school. In the words of a friend: In school, they “conceive” values, then they go and “give birth” at home.
The Glory School Values Prescription
|What Ails Kenya||Our Cure from the Core Values|
|Cancer of Tribalism||Love, Reconciliation, Service, Sharing|
|Destruction of Environment||Love for Environment|
|Food Insecurity||Love for Work|
|No Respect for Humanity||Love, Reconciliation|
|No Respect for Time||Timeliness|
|Laziness||Appreciation of Work|
No Rules Make Better Grades
Six years ago, when I took over the school and announced the value goal, the reactions could be summed up thus: “It will not work. School is for passing summative examinations for getting a good job.” Two kin who were present made an ironically light but symbolically deep comment: “Her name is Were, meaning ‘Big God’ in almost 20 dialects in the region, and her nickname is Mwende, meaning ‘unique.’” All agreed cynically to wait and see.
Having been raised in values through African traditional education, I was confident that value education is the solution for Kenya’s ailments. And In just four years, this unique model of education has launched the school into the top 10 in Kenya and improved the grade point averages from 2+/12 to 7.4/12.
What you can do
- If you have 10 minutes: Meditate on the values most important to you.
- If you have $10: Supply personal products for one girl for a year.
- If you have $100: Enable a girl to study and access the values model for a year.
- If you have 10 more minutes: Share this story or Priscilla Were’s TEDx talk TEDx: youtu.be/-aKo0lRs2n0