ABE's international product development director, Karen Beamish, describes the experience of visiting Kenya with product owner, Alice Salter.
Memories from Kenya
We have now been away from home for a seven days, undertaken six flights, to three countries, plus two transfers through South Africa. We have been lugging around seven pieces of luggage including marketing materials and a flip stand, which in itself got us in some hot water at the airport this morning with Kenya Airlines wanting to charge us for excess baggage.
A few hours later, after a good flight, we arrived into a very warm, humid and relatively overcast Nairobi, where we were met by Aloyo Amateshe (ABE’s regional manager) and his extremely dazzling sunglasses! We progressed slowly through the city of Nairobi and arrived at the Fairmont Norfolk. With only half an hour to spare, Alice and I quickly went to our rooms to freshen up and then re-joined Aloyo for our third tutor focus group of the trip.
In attendance were thirteen tutors from the Nairobi area, each from a different centre, all sat facing us quietly. However, they quickly started working together in groups, providing feedback and contributing significantly to the qualifications review process, so much so, they stayed an hour longer than planned. They told us things we had heard in other countries, but also gave us some fresh perspectives.
One thing that has become increasingly apparent during this trip is the value of these groups not just to ABE, but to the colleges and students. On all occasions we have seen the different groups busy establishing new contacts, creating new networks, arranging to meet, and setting themselves up on various social media. On each occasion one of the tutor and student groups has stood up and spoken on behalf of the groups to thank ABE for the opportunity to have a say in their future, be that learning or educating.
Finally, the Kenya Centre focus group ended some three hours after it started with photo shoot with the new marketing collateral, with each centre representatives holding up their new ABE accredited centre badges and logos.
Thursday morning started with a painfully early meeting at 7.30am with TVETA (the Kenyan regulator). Originally intended to be a workshop on their new regulatory framework and international accreditation process. We were asked lots of questions, not just about ABE but also about Ofqual (the UK regulator).
This was followed by a meeting with Nirobi Institute of Business Studies college. Driving through the streets to downtown Nairobi is certainly not for the faint-hearted! Fumes, traffic, pedestrians, bikes, children, wagons, tuk tuks, policemen – you name it, you need to negotiate it. It was quite a hair-raising experience but we did have fun. Once there, we had a positive meeting with the Academic Head and Head of Department for Business.
Alice and I once again braced ourselves for the crazy streets of Nairobi and we headed back to the hotel for a late lunch and a debrief with Aloyo before running the next focus group with some ABE learners. We were not disappointed – just as in Botswana and Malawi, they were a great group of young people and we had some real characters in attendance.
The most confident of the group was Bonnie Kim (pictured with Alice & Karen) who very quickly introduced himself and presented Alice and I with his business card – Motivational Speaker, Best Selling Author, Management Trainer and Consultant. When asked to introduce himself to the rest of the group, he promptly said “hold hands to the person next to you and tell them they are the most wonderful person in the world”. In true reserved British tradition Alice and I looked each other in horror but joined hands to join in. So much laughter followed, not just then but for the rest of the time.
We got some great and very insightful input from the group who were really switched on and knew what they wanted. A common theme was the opportunity for more inter-college interaction and ABE learner networking events learn from their peers who may be experiencing different things.
In true African tradition, we ended with yet another photo shoot and we didn’t actually say goodbye for another 40 minutes or so while the madness of photos ensued. I was very sad to say goodbye knowing that our learner focus groups were now complete for the time being.
And so we came to our final night in Africa and after some emailing catch-up notes we went for a late dinner, where we spent a lot of time reflecting on the trip, the experience, the learning and considering how we take account of it all in the next few months of work! Well, sort of, as our flight isn’t until 11pm at night. All packed up and with a slightly later start this morning, we prepared for our final focus group of the trip with Kenyan employers. The group very productive and we got some different insights from the group which was a bonus, particularly around the issue of localisation and readiness for the workplace. You can certainly tell that Nairobi is a commercial centre. Once again, we’ve made some great contacts who we can form continued relationships with which will be a great benefit to ABE.
So the focus groups are now complete! The insights we have gained will really help us to understand the wants and needs of our stakeholders in Botswana, Malawi, Kenya and beyond given the number of common issues and ideas raised.
All in all a good couple of weeks.