Maina Gioko

Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, Kenya

Maina Gioko

Maina’s first teaching job was in a tertiary college, preparing students to pass examinations in statistics, physics and technology. However, he soon felt the personal element of education was missing from his work, so he moved to a high school, where he had more flexibility to enrich the curriculum and teach in a way that was connected to students’ experiences of life.

During his years of teaching, Maina has always put this practical element of learning first, and applied scientific knowledge to the wider community. One engagement he and his pupils carry out every year is a deworming exercise in an area of poverty, combining this with community education on hygiene and environment care. It has also been a scientific learning opportunity for the class, as every year they have been able to monitor the level of wellness and the quality of water in the area, linking this back to their studies. Another example of Maina’s practical orientation comes from his lessons on energy usage, where he was able to influence his students to engage their parents to evaluate the energy consumption in their homes. This has led to some families changing to energy-saving bulbs and movement sensor or timer-controlled security lights.

The results and popularity of Maina’s teaching have been clear. The numbers of students taking his work/study projects has grown tenfold over the last five years: having begun with two students out of a class of 30, Maina now has 25 students out of a class of 65. Former physics students are doing well in their university studies; one even went to work for Facebook and subsequently designed a globally recognised money transfer platform.

Maina has also received a great deal of recognition from outside agencies. His school has been recognised as a Microsoft showcase school, partly due to his influence and class practice. Student projects have been recognised by the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, which resulted in Maina being invited for a fellowship there. Maina himself frequently broadcasts about educational issues on local radio and has been a keynote speaker at the last six Kenya Primary Headteacher Association conferences. He is a Microsoft Innovative Educator and was runner-up in the Innovative Content category of the Microsoft Teacher Awards.

If awarded the Global Teacher Prize, he would develop a Pedagogy Resource Centre to try out new teaching ideas, as well as replicating evidence-based practices in other parts of the country through mentoring, print and online means.