Can you see yourself presenting a reading lesson in Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) to a class of eager students, or sipping chai (tea) with a group of Kenyan colleagues as you share lesson plans in the teachers' room? Can you envision walking to the local market to buy beans, corn, and peanuts to make nyoyo and meeting a group of youth from the Life Skills Club you co-facilitate, who sign greetings to you in KSL? If the answer is yes, Peace Corps seeks applicants like you who also have the passion, flexibility, and resiliency to support Education for the Deaf (E4D) initiatives in Kenya.
Peace Corps Volunteers will support teachers to increase knowledge and transfer innovative and effective techniques and methods for teaching reading and early literacy skills and KSL. In collaboration with counterpart teachers, Volunteers will develop teaching and learning materials and resources to provide high-quality literacy instruction and use these to support students’ increase in literacy levels. Volunteers will also collaborate with students’ parents and community members to promote and encourage E4D, KSL, children’s literacy, and a reading culture within the community.
E4D Volunteers will work collaboratively with their local counterparts and communities in four focus areas:
1. Building teacher capacity through Communities of Practice
2. Supporting students in strengthening KSL, literacy and/or numeracy skills through direct classroom teaching
3. Promoting increased involvement of families and caregivers to support Deaf students’ education
4. Adapting and developing teaching/learning materials and increasing access to materials/resources to support E4D initiatives
As with all Peace Corps programs, flexibility and a positive attitude will be important for this project. Volunteers may be asked by counterparts to provide instruction on a variety of subjects aside from the one they have been invited to teach. Volunteers will teach and/or co-teach in the classroom and support activities to collaboratively build capacity with their counterparts and teachers. To engage the broader community, Volunteers and their counterparts might organize math competitions, science fairs, camps, clubs, and school enhancement projects. Along with classroom teaching, many Volunteers get involved supporting sports teams, youth conferences, school gardens, and other extracurricular activities. Volunteers also work with counterparts to integrate HIV/AIDS, malaria, and gender equality work into their teaching and community development activities in a culturally effective and appropriate manner.
Corporal punishment is illegal in Kenya. While the government has regulations regarding corporal punishment, these rules are not always followed or enforced. Volunteers may encounter different levels of corporal punishment and find this challenging, particularly when it is necessary to develop good working relationships with colleagues in the classroom. Peace Corps Kenya encourages open dialogue between Volunteers and their colleagues and to explore culturally appropriate and acceptable alternatives to corporal punishment. You will receive training and resources on how best to manage situations of corporal punishment in the classroom, using the Safe School curriculum.
Peace Corps Kenya partners with community counterparts to promote gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. Volunteers receive training on gender realities in Kenya and have the opportunity to co-implement gender-related activities that are contextually and culturally appropriate with their Kenyan counterparts. Together, they look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and facilitate empowerment programs designed to support both girls and boys to explore a new paradigm together.
COVID-19 Volunteer Activities
As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.
Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education (general or with emphasis in visually- or hearing-impaired)
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with state certification in special education (general or with emphasis in visually- or hearing-impaired)
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Education with experience working with persons who are learning disabled, developmentally disabled, emotionally handicapped, physically handicapped, multiply handicapped, hearing-impaired, or visually-impaired
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with experience working in classrooms or residential homes with persons who are learning disabled, developmentally disabled, emotionally handicapped, physically handicapped, multiply handicapped, hearing-impaired, or visually-impaired
The most successful candidates will have one or more of the following relevant qualifications:
- Prior teaching experience, especially with primary and/or secondary school age children
- Experience teaching large classes
- Experience designing educational content
- Familiarity with American Sign Language or another sign language
- Classroom experience teaching deaf children or youth
- Experience in school and/or community presentations with children, youth, or adult learners
- Prior work with HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention
- Experience with graphic design, T.V. captioning, filming, editing or creativity in developing HIV/AIDS educational materials
- Experience with youth development, particularly life skills development, promotion of healthy lifestyles, camps, youth clubs, scouts, etc.
Required Language Skills
There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.
Kenya has two official languages (Kiswahili and English). In addition, Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) is the 3rd National Language and is the language of instruction in schools for the Deaf. There are over 40 other local languages and dialects, with Luo and Luhya languages spoken predominantly in the Western region. Deaf Educator Volunteers will use KSL in the classroom to communicate with students and some DHH (Deaf and Hard of Hearing) counterpart teachers. Not all Kenyans speak English in their daily lives, so Volunteers' community integration is greatly enhanced with the ability to hold basic conversations in KSL, Kiswahili, or one of the local Kenyan languages used in the community.
Trainees undergo a comprehensive language immersion program during the 11-week Pre-Service Training. All Deaf Educator Trainees learn KSL during PST and survival Kiswahili or a local language once in their sites. Trainees are tested in Kenyan Sign Language three times during PST and at the end of 11 weeks they are required to attain an Intermediate High score in KSL. Once they have moved to their permanent host communities, Volunteers continue their language learning with a trained tutor identified and funded by Peace Corps Kenya.
Trainees live with Kenyan host families throughout Pre-Service Training (PST). After PST, Volunteers are placed in rural communities in Western Kenya. Housing is provided by the work partner and can be a private structure in a family compound, staff housing at the school, or a stand-alone house in the community. Structures vary from mud houses with metal roofs to concrete houses with glass windows. Volunteers all have a cooking area, private bathing area, and latrine. They may have to collect water from a local water source and may not have electricity.
Volunteers’ communities will be no more than five hours from the regional capital, Kisumu, where the Peace Corps Office is located. County capitals will have banks, a variety of shops, markets, restaurants, and guesthouses.
Volunteers will use matatus (minivans) as a main mode of transportation and work locations are no more than four kilometers from their houses.
Cell phone coverage may not be consistent in all communities, and text messaging may be more reliable. Internet is available at both Peace Corps’ office and through cellphone providers.
LGBTQI+ Volunteers have served successfully in Kenya, but safe and successful service requires a clear understanding of the dynamic LGBTQI+ cultural, political, and social context. The U.S. State Department provides the following guidance to LGBTQI+ travelers to Kenya under the Local Laws and Special Circumstances drop-down menu: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Kenya.html
For safety and security reasons, LGBTQI+ Volunteers are advised not to disclose this aspect of their identity. All Volunteers are asked to refrain from discussing the topic of LGBTQI+ rights with community members, given the risks of being suspected of being part of or supporting the LGBTQI+ community. Due to these restrictive laws, same-sex couples are not currently eligible to serve together in Kenya.
While all Peace Corps staff have received training in ICDEIA, certain staff in Kenya have a “Safe Space” identification on their office doors and are able to provide more direct support to LGBTQI+ Volunteers.
Kenyans regard dress and appearance as demonstrating respect. Volunteers are expected to dress in a culturally appropriate manner, whether in training, traveling, or on the job. Volunteers spend much of their time at school, so it is advisable to bring clothing that is comfortable and appropriate for a professional setting. Footwear appropriate for standing, walking, and biking is also a necessity.
Dresses and skirts should fall below the knee and spaghetti straps are not appropriate unless covered with a sleeved shirt or jacket. Shorts can be worn at home, when exercising, or when doing work where Kenyan counterparts are also wearing them. Sturdy sandals and closed-toed shoes are acceptable footwear for work related activities.
Hair should be clean and neat, with beards and mustaches neatly trimmed. Long hair on men may have a cultural stigma. Tattoos and some piercings may not be culturally accepted and may impede community integration. Volunteers with visible body piercings or tattoos will need strategies to conceal them during the beginning of their process of integration into their communities.
Food availability and variety will vary by host community. The staple food in Kenya is ugali, made from maize meal and eaten with cooked vegetables, fish, meat, beans, or chicken. Vegetarians and vegans should have little trouble maintaining a healthy diet, though vegetarianism is relatively uncommon. A few words of polite explanation will usually suffice to be excused from eating meat in any situation.
Serving in Kenya
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Kenya: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.
Peace Corps Kenya welcomes couples serving together during service. For any couple to be considered, both partners must qualify for and be invited to any of the following projects:
- Community Health Outreach Volunteer
- Secondary Education Math Educator
- Secondary Education Science Educator
- Deaf Educator
Volunteers in the Health and Education sectors undergo different technical training programs, and during Pre-Service Training, they live in different training villages around the main training site. Couples who serve in different sectors should note that they may not be living in the same villages during the 11 weeks of PST, and that their additional compulsory trainings such as In-Service Training may be held at different times. However, all couples will live together at their permanent site while working at different host organizations. During PST, couples serving in the same sector will live with the same host family.
Due to Kenya’s expectation that whenever a man and woman live together, they are by default married, unmarried couples should be prepared to present themselves as married throughout their service. Due to the country’s restrictive laws regarding the LGBTQI+ community, same-sex couples cannot serve in Kenya at this time.
The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couple placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process recruiters and placement officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities. For more information please visit: https://www.peacecorps.gov/faqs/lgbtq/.
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
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