Monthly Archives: February 2020

AICMAR cohort 19 10 15 - Copy

The merry-go-round, ‘harambee’ and sustainability

An earlier post shared some promising data from BUILD training-of-trainers cohorts in western Kenya. Quantitative impacts were the focus but the qualitative ones include some fresh attitudes and approaches to sustainability, which are essential for the health and future of the Church, given the extensive training needs across East Africa.

There is no ‘silver-bullet’ for sustainability. Instead a range of approaches needs to be discovered, undergirded by a fundamental attitude of commitment to training, which needs to be set as the seedbed within which any creative initiatives can flourish.

Two of the three cohorts mentioned in the July post were, on the whole, locally resourced. This meant that something of a model had already been set – how the training starts can dictate its direction. However, one, with a regional reach, had significant external support, which was not surprising in a pioneering context. But the wider effect of the training was experienced and its value rose: “They see the need for the training and go out of their way to make sure they get it,” as one observer put it. And so with a new cohort beginning on 15 October 2019 there was an opportunity to observe and develop some fresh attitudes and approaches to sustainability.

To set the context, the cohort was fairly large for this sort of intensive training: 38 individuals with the 19 women and 17 men giving good gender-balance. The training is, like all BUILD training, in-service: in this case a day a week on Tuesdays, over a two and a half year period. All the participants are what we would call ‘mature students,’ with families to support and who cannot therefore afford to leave their homes for full-time study. All the participants are already serving in churches as lay-ministers, supporting the work of their vicars, and so the mode and content of the study is tailored to their needs and the needs of their parishes, who are encouraging them. The formation of the cohort was not driven by BUILD or even the Diocesan Education Coordinator in this instance, but instead by repeated requests from the institution itself, AICMAR (African Institute for Contemporary Mission and Research), which had seen the impact of the training as well as its suitability and teachability.

But the most striking thing about the current group is the way in which they are supporting themselves and one another. The course is running on a modular basis with the ten modules forming the core of the learning. That in itself means that self-funding can be broken down into ten smaller units, when compared with the typical tranches associated with four semesters or six terms. Each module is costed at 8,000 KES per student, which is approximately 80 USD or 60 GBP, meaning that the BUILD based Diploma in Bible, Theology & Leadership as a whole comes in at 80,000 KES or 800 USD or 600 GBP.

All students have been asked to raise their own funds. Some are raising support from within the churches they serve – but that is only for around 20% of the students who are serving in significant roles in their churches, and serving in churches that are able to support them. This needs to be addressed going forwards. When it comes to the other 80%, some individuals have their own savings from their small-scale businesses and/or from farming.

Not only is the diploma as a whole broken down into the ten units of the modules, they are able to pay in an even more micro and incremental manner, week by week, saving and contributing effectively 200 shillings per week per person. The system they have come up with a group is based on two local approaches: what they are calling ‘the merry-go-round’ and the Kenyan principle of ‘harambee.’

With the merry-go-round they pool small amounts together each week and credit that pot to just one member of the group – to more or less raise the total for one module’s training for that person. The following week they move onto the next. They are determined that no one should leave their class. What they bring together to put in the pot each week covers not only fees but can also help with other personal needs related to their studies, or relieving needs that would prevent their study. As the same observer put it, “This is based on a common philosophy here in Kenya called ‘harambee,’ which means pulling resources together for a common goal.”

The above account might appear to assume that all will contribute the exact same amount, but the reality on the ground is that those who have more are covering others, going out of their way to support their friends and co-workers: “students are making individual sacrifices to support each other.”

This might sound difficult for the institution itself. However, the funds are trickling in consistently over time, so there is no shortfall at the end of the year or semester, with the common scenario of students failing to pay at the end of the course and the painful threats around not being awarded their diploma.