Fall is recruitment time for new Year One Kisa Scholars to fill the spaces made available by the Year Two Scholars who graduated from AfricAid’s 26 Partner Schools last spring. The team of Kisa Project Managers and Mentors have just added 1,048 girls from both the Arusha and Kilimanjaro Regions. The staff is confident that they have recruited girls who are qualified and poised to become leaders after experiencing the two-year curriculum, taught after school in weekly sessions. How do we know we have the right mix of students? Kisa Mentor, Ndiini Kidoko, explains the carefully designed and selective recruitment process and how we find the girls who will most benefit from the program.
Step 1: Information Sessions
The start of the recruitment process is a reminder to Kisa Mentors of the importance of what we stand for, our roles as Mentors, and the overall mission of AfricAid. When Mentors go into a Partner School for an informational session with new Advanced Level (Form 5) students, we explain that AfricAid supports girls’ education in Tanzania in order to provide them with the opportunity to transform their own lives and the lives of their entire communities. We are looking for girls who want to become leaders in this individual and societal transformation.
We explain the roadmap of our program, the time commitment (two hours per week at the end of the school day) and the unique experiences the girls will have during their two years, including Career Day, Health Symposium, Year One Presentation, and 2 Day Challenge.
Introducing a new group of girls to Kisa is meant to be a fun and memorable experience for them. Through creative role play, demonstrations and speeches, Year Two Kisa Scholars help to explain to the newcomers why the program is worthwhile. Kisa Mentor, Einoth Justine, says, “I was so impressed. It is amazing to see the Year Two Kisa Scholars transformed and proudly sharing what they have attained from Kisa with their fellow girls.”
Step 2: Written Application
Once they understand the scope of the program and how it aligns with her personal principles and schedule, any girl interested in becoming a Kisa Scholar is invited to submit the application form. It is important she is committed, as we do not allow drop outs from the program.
From their responses, we obtain insight as to the girls’ views on leadership, issues facing their communities, and what their personal goals are. There are quite a few open-ended questions that require thoughtful responses and it is designed to instantly immerse them into big picture thinking about their community. We also ask them if they are a Binti Shupavu alumna.
Leadership: What are your goals for your future? What are your goals for your society? Do you believe you are a leader? Describe one time you acted as a leader. Do you want to become a leader? What do you believe are the most important qualities of a leader?
Community: What is the biggest challenge facing your community? How do you believe you can help to solve this challenge? Describe one time you helped your community. What are the resources in your community? Who is your role model?
Step 3: Group Interviews
Before we go out to the schools, we have staff meetings to discuss the types of interview questions we will ask the girls. We conduct the interviews in small groups, 5-10 girls per group. The groups are also asked to plan an event such as a wedding, meeting, or fundraiser. This lets us observe their creativity and how well they work together. This is an instrumental step in forming the next group of Kisa Scholars. The maximum number of girls that can be managed and mentored in a classroom setting is 45. The new Scholars become comfortable with each other during this process, making for better classroom management. It also benefits the girls because the Mentor can tailor the lessons to the needs of the class.
Step 4: Selection
Now the hard part. Mentors use four key criteria to facilitate the selection process and create a well-rounded, high potential class at each Partner School.
Geography: A-Level schools in Tanzania are generally boarding schools, with girls coming from all over the country, not just the two regions we are operating in. Those girls will travel home at holidays to share what they have learned with family and neighbors. We consider how much of an impact a girl will have on shaping her community, especially those coming from areas that AfricAid has not yet reached.
Academic Strength: We also consider diversity in academic performance. The girls who need Kisa the most are not really those who have the best academic performance. The program should have a mixture of Scholars who perform well academically, along with those who are not reaching their full potential. Kisa Mentor, Chonge Tukwa adds, “As a Mentor, I have learned that if you believe in your Scholars and reward even their smallest achievements, in due time they will surprise you with how much they are capable of.”
English Fluency: We also mix Scholars who are fluent in English, with those who are not. Similar to academic strength, we believe that girls will inspire one another and help each other rise to the top. This encourages the entire classroom to benefit the most from the skills they will get from Kisa. These include confidence, self-esteem, public speaking, project planning and organizing, and entrepreneurship, among others.
Need, Vulnerability and Willingness: We consider students’ motivation to become part of the sisterhood that is formed with Kisa Scholars. Many girls want to join the program because they already know of an issue in their community where they want to make an impact. We ask: Tell us of a scenario in your life where you experienced injustice and what you did. When you have a problem, who do you consult first? How will you feel if you are not selected to join our program?
Step 5: Notification of New Scholars
It takes us two weeks to deliberate as a team, after which we send the selections to the School Liaisons. They post the lists on the blackboard in the classroom or go to the classrooms to inform the Scholars who has been selected.
This is actually a bittersweet time for all Mentors. What about the girls who did not get selected? On the official start day of the program, there is inevitably one or more girls who show up. She is crying because she is not in the class. The Mentors try their best to accommodate these students as visitors to the class. If she shows dedication and enthusiasm, she may become an official Kisa Year One Scholar.
And, another group of Kisa Scholars is off and running, ready to change the world!
Kisa Project is a two-year leadership course that prepares girls in their last two years of secondary school to attend university and create positive social change in their communities.